Is it me, or is this the least i have cared about any offseason in a while? Nevertheless, the offseason is upon us, and while moves won’t happen next week, all front offices are planning the shape of their roster for the 2018 season.
The elephant in the room for the Jacksonville Jaguars is what to do about Blake Bortles, whose $19 million dollar fifth-year option guarantees March 14th. I am not sure many people thought the decision to exercise Bortles option would even be a difficult one, but here we are.
Bortles had two above average performances in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. Bortles went 37-for-62, for 507 yards, two touchdowns, and (most importantly) zero interceptions. Add into that two playoff victories this postseason, and most casual viewers wouldn’t even question whether Bortles would be back.
Despite Bortles play in the last two postseason games, the Jaguars owe it to themselves to see if they can upgrade at the quarterback position. Whether they can, is a question to debate , but the Jaguars would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t at least look in a serious manner.
The fact is, Bortles was not good enough through the entirety of the season, that he should be handed his job no questions asked. If I were to bet on whether he was back or not, i would bet on it being the case. It won’t be an easy task if the Jaguars do try and make an upgrade.
The obvious dilemma that comes up in this scenario is how much of an upgrade is the person they are looking to replace Bortles with? And are the extra assets, and money used worth it for the upgrade they are getting.
Let’s use two examples. One candidate that the Jaguars have been linked to is Alex Smith. Smith is in the final year of his deal, and is owed roughly 18 million next season, just a hair below the $19 million that Bortles could be owed. Smith is coming off the best season of his career, completing 67 percent of his passes, while throwing for 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Smith would most likely have to be traded for, and the Jaguars would have to gauge what they are willing to give up. if the cost of Smith is a third round pick, is giving that up, and swapping his salary with Bortles worth the price?
Then take Kirk Cousins, who has the chance to become an unrestricted free agent. If this scenario plays out, Cousins will have a plethora of options to choose from, and could end up being the highest paid quarterback in football. The question the Jaguars must ask is, is the extra money they are giving Cousins, and the long-term commitment, a better option than keeping Bortles for a year?
Keeping Bortles does have promising elements to it. They can keep him on a one year deal, and have him prove he is worth any type of long-term commitment. If he does, all are happy. If he doesn’t, they easily move on with no cap pain.
The locker room seems to be behind Bortles, and have almost adopted a big brother mentality for those who go after him. Bortles won the respect of a lot of the players in the locker room, especially with his ability to block out the noise, and for some of his play down the stretch of the season.
Heck, maybe Bortles still has room to grow? I don’t see it, but that doesn’t mean Dave Caldwell, who drafted him to be the franchise quarterback doesn’t. The Jaguars could go into the season with the mindset that Bortles will know the system, have a rapport with the receivers, and banking on his confidence being the highest it has ever been.
I don’t see the Jaguars getting one of the top quarterbacks in this draft because of where they are slotted. However, if someone like a Lamar Jackson slides to them at 29, do they pull the trigger? And even if they do keep Bortles, do they try and draft a guy before Day 3?
No matter what they do, they need to improve their quarterback room, and the draft could be one of those avenues. Whether that guy is the immediate replacement for Bortles, or not.
Are Smith and Cousins better options for Bortles in 2018? I think so, but I’m not going to debate that in this. The Jaguars are going to have to weigh all their options going into 2018, as this team has a serious chance to contend once again.
The AFC is at a weak point right now, where not many teams seem to be on the rise. The Steelers and the Patriots will be there, but a team like the Kansas City Chiefs take a step back going to Patrick Mahomes. The Buffalo Bills could take a step back going with a younger quarterback. Deshaun Watson could come back and set the league on fire, but coming back from and ACL is always questionable, and i am not in love with the Houston Texans roster. We have no idea what is going on with Andrew Luck, and the Tennessee Titans made a somewhat questionable hire at head coach.
The Jaguars have a legitimate chance to reach the Super Bowl the next two seasons. The management of their roster is going to be crucial. We will look back 20 years, and either remember the tremendous job they did capitalizing on their talent, or look back regret of what could have been.
With the opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl, the quarterback position will be crucial. With title hopes on the line, the Jaguars would be foolish to not explore every single option they have when it comes to who starts for them in 2018, and beyond.