Blake Bortles has been a whipping boy for years in the NFL, and understandably so. His career has been a roller coaster ride – and mostly a nauseating one.
But here are his postseason stats in three games in his first playoff rodeo:
49-of-85 (58 percent)
0 INT (0 fumbles lost)
91.0 QB Rating
17 carries, 121 yards, 7.1 ypc
So what is Bortles? Is he the QB who was awful against Buffalo (87 yards passing; 88 yards rushing), or lights out against New England in Foxborough, going toe-to-toe with Tom Brady (293 yards, 8.14 ypa, 98.5 QB rating)?
Probably somewhere in between. You never want to make sweeping conclusions based on a 3-game sample size, but I saw enough of Bortles this season to know this: Jacksonville doesn’t need to go spend big at QB this offseason. I do believe they should invest in a capable backup, and by that, I mean someone who is willing to be a #2, but could actually push Bortles in camp in case he comes in fat and happy.
Backup Chad Henne has been capable, but he turns 33 in July. Who should they target? Realistically, the Jaguars may have to line up for the whoever loses out in Minnesota between Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings can’t keep both (unless they dump Case Keenum).
Middling teams like the Cardinals, Jets or Dolphins could also be in the mix for Bradford/Bridgewater, but the safe guess is those QBs will be behind the likes of Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith and Tyrod Taylor in the offseason QB hunt.
But after the AFC Title game Bortles had – reminder, his top targets were Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee; Case Keenum in Minnesota was throwing to Top 10 receivers – we can squash all the Alex Smith/Kirk Cousins scuttlebutt in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have a roster built to last for the long run in the AFC.
The Jaguars do have a contract decision to make on Bortles which could complicate the decision. They exercised the fifth-year option last May, which means his $19 million salary in 2018 is guaranteed for injury-only until the new league year starts in March. They could cut him (or conversely re-sign him to a longer term deal) before it becomes fully guaranteed if they want to pay the $19 million elsewhere.
The one thing Bortles has to work on this offseason: The mentality of playing from behind vs playing with a lead. The Jaguars led the Steelers and Patriots for the majority of both games, and Bortles was very good; if you roll tape of him playing from behind against San Francisco or the Chargers, it isn’t pretty.
The good news is the Jaguars are so young and loaded, that almost everyone will be back. Receivers Allen Robinson and Lee are free agents; perhaps one gets a franchise tag. Nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin is a free agent and it’ll be difficult to keep him anywhere his current salary of $668k; linebacker Paul Posluszny is 33 and probably could be had at a discount.
Only the Jaguars can know this: Would another season of, “keep it simple, Blake” be enough to get the to the AFC Championship game? Or would a big-play receiver addition and an upgrade at tight end – Marcedes Lewis turns 34 in May – and maybe a safety be sufficient?