It became clear the moment the Jaguars benched quarterback Blake Bortles that he won’t be back in 2019, the second season of the three-year, $54 million deal that he signed in the offseason. So what does this mean for the team that gave Bortles a $15 million signing bonus and another $11.5 million in fully-guaranteed payments?
Here’s what it means, in a nutshell. With $6.5 million of his $16 million salary in 2019 fully guaranteed, but with offset language attached to it, the Jaguars can cut Bortles and hope that someone else will sign him and pay him at least $6.5 million for next year.
It also means he’ll walk away with $20 million for one year of service.
So what would another team pay Bortles in 2019? Base salaries for veteran backup quarterbacks are currently varied. Bears backup Chase Daniel will make $6 million next year. Washington quarterback Colt McCoy will earn $3.5 million. Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer will pocket $2.8 million. Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne is on the books for $2.55 million.
Bortles likely won’t see $6.5 million, but every dollar he makes will reduce the Jackonsville financial obligation. That likewise will drop the cap charge associated with releasing him from $16.5 million, one dollar at a time up to the full $6.5 million.
The Jaguars also can nudge $5 million of the cap charge to 2020 by making Bortles a post-June 1 cut.
So the cap charge, in theory, could be as low as $5 million in 2019 and $5 million in 2020.
The fact that no team would likely pay Bortles $6.5 million in a year that had the Jaguars scheduled to pay Bortles $16 million underscores the blunder that was made when the contract was signed. Then again, and as raised at the time, what leverage did Bortles have to exert a contract worth $18 million per year in the first place? If he’d been cut by the Jaguars before the season, he would have gotten a lot less than $18 million per year. When he gets cut by the Jaguars after the season, he’ll get even less.
There’s another potential outcome to the Bortles imbroglio. The Jaguars could do a Brock Osweiler-style hot potato trade, sending a draft pick to another team to get it to absorb the contract and the $6.5 million guarantee that goes along with it. For any team that would even consider paying Bortles $6.5 million or close to it on the open market, it would make plenty more sense to call the Jaguars and coyly suggest pulling an Osweiler.