The Jacksonville Jaguars may move on from Blake Bortles in 2019
By David Levin
After a five year run that produced one winning season and lots of questions about the team’s decision to extend his contract, the Jacksonville Jaguars appear ready to move on from quarterback Blake Bortles.
All things must come to an end. Ask many Jacksonville Jaguars fans and the national media and they will tell you the marriage between Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and the organization should have ended sooner rather than later.
Now, the idea of keeping the fifth-year signal caller beyond this season appears to be slim as the franchise may finally be ready to move on to another leader of the offense. Bortles, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2014, was benched two weeks ago in favor of Cody Kessler, who engineered the team’s first win in eight games last week against the Indianapolis Colts.
The news of the move was first reported by Ian Rapoport on his Twitter account.
Two weeks ago, following a 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone that he had fired his offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and would replace Bortles under center for the Colts game.
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The team is expected to make changes to the offense this offseason and coaching staff. Jacksonville could bring in a veteran to compete with Kessler and add another arm in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.
Blake Bortles threw for 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season for the 10-6 AFC South champions in 2017. It was by far his best season in a Jaguars uniform. He has regressed this season, partially do to an offensive line that has been emaciated by injuries and his own inability to move the ball down field.
The Jaguars are only averaging 16.3 points a game this year and after leading the NFL in rushing per game in 2017 with 141 yards per contest, they average just 107.3 yards a contest this season. A lot of the rushing woes have been to due the loss of Leonard Fournette for the majority of the first half of the season because of the hamstring injury.
"“The Jaguars have decided to move on from Bortles as their long-term starter, so quarterback should be their No. 1 priority in the draft, but they also should sign a veteran in free agency as long as they can do so at a reasonable price,” writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com."
Moving away from Blake Bortles does come with a hefty price as the three-year, $54-million contract extension he signed after the playoff run does hamper the team a bit and the salary cap. The Jaguars must think long and hard how they can manage the salary cap, keep key veterans and still find the former UCF star’s replacement once this season ends.
"“That’s assuming the Jaguars release Bortles, though there might be some hesitancy to do so because of the $16.5 million in dead money that would count against the salary cap,” DiRocco added. “That would be the most any team has ever paid in dead money for a single player in NFL history, so the Jaguars might decide keeping Bortles and his $21 million cap figure makes more sense. They would essentially be paying him $4.5 million to be a backup since they’re going to have to pay $16.5 million regardless.”"
Also, the notion of keeping Bortles on the team may be an issue for the team moving forward if the front office makes changes with management and coaches which may include Marrone. Bortles was drafted by current general manager David Caldwell. If he is not brought back in 2019, the idea to keep Bortles as a backup becomes even more curious. Usually a quarterback, head coach and general manager are linked together.
Gus Bradley was coach when Bortles was drafted and is now the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jacksonville must determine which path to take in choosing their successor at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor could all be available. Neither one wows me in terms of a permanent solution. The idea of bringing in another high-priced player like Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco or Matthew Stafford, as some reports have offered, my not help the salary cap. The NFL Draft does not have the same class as last season, so the impact may be minimal.
Nick Foles would be a name to consider based on how he has performed for the Philadelphia Eagles as a backup. There is still talk of a Tom Coughlin reunion with Eli Manning, but that is a very short-time solution.