The specific quirks of the NFL’s offseason schedule give the Jaguars a unique opportunity as the 2018 league year approaches.
The fifth-year option gives quarterback Blake Bortles a salary of $19 million for 2018. It becomes fully guaranteed on March 14, the first day of the league year. The two-day negotiating period that precedes the launch of free agency, which also begins on March 14, gives the Jaguars an opportunity to reach an agreement in principle with another quarterback while having Bortles on board as a fallback option.
Then, if/when an agreement in principle is reached with a very-soon-to-be free-agent quarterback, the Jaguars can cut Bortles, avoiding his $19 million salary.
This strategy has two potential glitches. First, Bortles’ salary currently is guaranteed for injury only. If Bortles (who had wrist surgery not long after the team’s playoff run ended) can’t pass a physical by March 14, he can’t be cut.
Second, the quarterback with whom they reach an agreement in principle can renege without consequence, refusing to sign the contract after the Jaguars have torn up Bortles’ deal.
Still, with a Bortles in the hand, the Jaguars have a chance to chase a Cousins or a McCarron or even a Brees in the bush. It’s a dynamic that the Jaguars can use to their advantage — or that can blow up in their faces.