After naming Chad Henne their starting quarterback for Week 3 of the preseason, there’s a ton of speculation that the Jacksonville Jaguars will move on from Blake Bortles altogether.
It’s interesting in that Jacksonville just recently picked up the fifth-year option on Bortles’ rookie contract, guaranteeing him (for injury) $19 million for the 2018 season.
How did Jacksonville sour on Bortles so quickly? That’s a massive contract option to pick up for a guy that’s thrown 51 interceptions in his first 45 career starts. It also tells us that the team had a change of philosophy over the summer.
The question now is two-fold.
What is Bortles’ trade value should the team decide to deal him? If there’s no value, will the Jaguars just cut their losses and move on from him completely?
Answering that second question first, we have to look at the Robert Griffin III situation in Washington back in 2015. Prior to that season, the Redskins picked up the $16.2 million option on RGIII’s rookie contract. Most figured the team was going to rely on him to turn things around following a disastrous 2014 campaign.
As spring turned to summer, it became readily apparent this wasn’t going to happen. Instead, the Skins made RGIII a healthy inactive throughout the season, enabling the team to avoid risking injury. Eventually, Washington moved on from him without guaranteeing that massive payday in 2016.
This is most definitely a scenario we can see play out in Duval. If the Jags simply don’t see Bortles as being part of their future, why risk the drama we saw in D.C. back in 2015? How would Bortles react to being benched for 16 games?
How would he react to seeing a second-year player in Brandon Allen leap him as the team’s primary backup? It could definitely cause unnecessary drama within an already fledgling franchise.
Of course, Jacksonville will look to move Bortles and get compensation back in return before any of this comes to fruition.
This leads us to our first question. Is there really a market for Bortles’ services after he regressed a great deal both in 2016 and during the summer?
With a $19 million salary in 2018, the common conclusion would be that Bortles is not a tradable commodity. As of right now, only 12 NFL teams have that amount of money under the cap for the 2018 season. Of those teams, the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills will likely be looking for a long-term solution at quarterback.
Even then, the 2018 NFL Draft is expected to be absolutely stacked at quarterback. Both San Francisco and Buffalo also have three-plus picks in the first two rounds of said draft.
Not even taking into equation Bortles’ struggles over the past year-plus, his contract is an albatross for the Jags in any potential trade scenario.
If Jacksonville were to be able to trade Bortles, the team might find itself in the situation where it either has to settle for a late-round pick or even sweeten the pot. It could be similar to the situation the Houston Texans were in when they gave Cleveland a second-round pick to take Brock Osweiler off their hands (more on that here).
Any team trading for Bortles would do so with the idea of actually playing him this season, setting into motion the possibility that said team could be on the hook for $19 million should Bortles get injured.
That’s the crux of the issue. While Jacksonville can simply release or bench Bortles without worrying about injury, any team trading for him wouldn’t have that luxury. Releasing Bortles would also net the Jaguars a $7 million dead cap hit this season.
The only scenario we envision a trade being worked out is if Bortles pulls a Colin Kaepernick and restructures his contract to give his new team an out should he get injured. That’s the only reason Kaepernick actually saw the field for the San Francisco 49ers last season.
Remember, his 2017 salary was guaranteed for injury only. Not wanting to risk having to pay Kaepernick that cash, San Francisco benched him in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Once Kaepernick restructured his deal, he took over as the team’s starter.
If Bortles were to agree to a restructure, the market for his services definitely opens up. It would then include San Francisco, Buffalo, New York (J) as well as the Indianapolis Colts and potentially even the Denver Broncos.
So the market isn’t necessarily bare for Bortles when it comes to a trade. But a whole heck of a lot would have to happen in order for a team to even show interest in trading for him.
In the end, we’re expecting Bortles to either be released or to see a repeat of the RGIII situation. Such is the nature of the beast for a Jaguars organization that simply can’t get it right at quarterback.