The Jacksonville Jaguars signed quarterback Blake Bortles to a three-year, $54 million extension on Saturday evening, with $26.5 million in guarantees. The deal has some playin incentives that Bortles can meet, which will bring the total value of the three-year deal to $66.5 million. The new deal, a surprise to some, means the Jaguars won’t be in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes in free agency, but beyond that fans have a lot of questions.
While we don’t have a breakdown of the contract just yet to see where the guaranteed money is spread out and how it’s spread out, we can make an educated guess based on how some past contracts like this one have worked. For instance, I would guess Bortles’ deal will be similar to that of the deal Mike Glennon signed with the Chicago Bears offseason, which was valued at three-years for $45 million with $18.5 million guaranteed at signing. The Bears structured Glennon’s deal in such a way that it was in essence a one-year deal.
It allows the Jaguars to lower Bortles 2018 cap hit, which will give them more freedom in free agency to do things like re-sign Allen Robinson or even aggressively pursue an offensive lineman, tight end or both. With a combination of things like a signing bonus, roster bonuses, etc. the team can finagle the cap to spread Bortles previous $19 million cap hit over two to three seasons. The team gave him $7 million more guaranteed for this flexibility and from Bortles camp he gets more than he was on the fifth-year option and more per season than he’d have likely gotten on the open market. Plus, if Bortles actually develops to be consistently good, he’s on a below average market value contract for a starting quarterback.
I would imagine Bortles deal, albeit a bit more expensive than Glennon’s, will be structured in the same way that the dead money hit in 2019 if he tanks in 2018 won’t be something the team can’t absorb. This deal, in my personal opinion, shows that the front office views Bortles as the best option for a “bridge” type quarterback so they can now draft a new one, especially with their additional job security through the extensions of Doug Marrone, Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin.
While I’m sure a lot of people who wanted to move on from Bortles are going through some sticker shock at the overall price tag, the reality is that it’s most likely going to be a one- to two-year deal to afford the team the time to go after the quarterback they want in the NFL Draft, which will also allow them to not force the quarterback into the starting role.
As someone who is critical of Bortles, this move shouldn’t be viewed as anything other than smart business. If the Jaguars had valued Cousins as a significant upgrade, they’d have pursued him in free agency and paid what he would have cost. Looking at this move, coupled with the move to re-sign the front office trio, it tells me that the team would rather just draft their own quarterback now that they have time on their side while still maintaining and overall competitive team.