Bortles is their guy. But they didn’t really have a choice.
When Kirk Cousins became available after the Alex Smith trade, the Jaguars might have wanted to sniff around the soon-to-be former Redskins quarterback to gauge his interest. A discrete discussion of contract numbers and X’s and O’s over dinner might have been order. But the Jaguars can’t even consider Cousins — or Sam Bradford or anyone else.
Bortles’ contract is essentially locked in after he got wrist surgery immediately after the season. The Jaguars took on his fifth-year option last offseason, but did so with the freedom to cut him before March 14, 2018, the start of the next league year, without paying him any money for next season. The move would be cap-hit free.
That was, until Bortles’ surgery.
If he’s not healthy when the league year starts, then he’s guaranteed his fifth-year option of his rookie contract worth $19 million. The quarterback will have just over a month to pass a physical after wrist surgery. That’s a long shot.
The Jaguars could pay their way out of the situation by coming to a renegotiation of the contract or an injury settlement, which would spread his $19 million over a few years to alleviate the cap hit. But they don’t want to be dealing with dead money from Bortles while paying millions to Cousins.
Sure, the Jaguars would easily be a better team in 2018 with Cousins at the helm. He’s a more intelligent and gifted passer than Bortles by pretty much any metric.
While Cousins — or other quarterback options — may be tempting, the Jaguars shouldn’t flirt with the idea. Bortles will be the Jaguars’ ride-or-die in 2018. And while they’re pretending like they had a choice, they didn’t. Financially, they’re tied to him for one more year.
The biggest problem, however, is that their defense is built with some of the elite defenders in the NFL. Why is this a problem? Those defenders are young, and many are on rookie deals. Those youngsters are key to running the system — which has become popular in Seattle and Atlanta. But look at what happened in Seattle. Those players got old and demanded huge contracts. Some moved on — some stuck around for too much money. Some didn’t age well. Seattle is a mess.
If the Jaguars are going to build themselves like the Seahawks to win championships, they may be operating in a four-year window. Bortles is basically a waste of (cap) space during that window.
Every year with Bortles might be a year wasted, which makes his wrist surgery all the more painful in Jacksonville.