The Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Blake Bortles agreed to a three-year, $54 million contract extension on Saturday night. The contract has $26.5 million in guaranteed money, and Bortles could make a maximum of $66.5 million with incentives. NFL.Com’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Adam Schefter had the initial details, and the Jaguars later confirmed the news (with photographic proof of Bortles signing the deal).
The #Jaguars and QB Blake Bortles agreed on a 3-year new contract worth $54M that covers the 5th year option and two additional years, I’m told. He was under contract for 2018 at $19M.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 25, 2018
Jaguars are giving QB Blake Bortles a new three-year, $54 million deal, worth up to $66.5M with incentives, that includes $26.5M guaranteed, tying him to Jacksonville through the 2020 season, per source.
Jacksonville out of QB market.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 25, 2018
It's official 🖊️ @BBortles5 signs a contract extension that runs through the 2020 season.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) February 25, 2018
The contract was mocked by many people on social media, as you see the big fancy $54 million — and up to $66.5 million — numbers, and we still don’t know if Bortles is all that good.
But this really isn’t a bad deal at all for the Jaguars, and could even turn out to be a great deal, for several reasons.
1. As Rapoport said, Bortles was set to make $19 million anyway in 2018 with his fifth-year option. With this current contract, he’ll make $18 million annually from 2018-2020. It’s essentially a two-year contract extension at $18 million per.
2. The Jaguars should be able to get out of this contract without too much financial trouble by 2019 if Bortles disappoints in 2018. The key number in the contract is the $26 million guaranteed. And that’s really not a big number…
3. This is “cheap” as far as starting-caliber, top-30 NFL quarterback contracts go these days. Matthew Stafford got $54 million guaranteed. Jimmy Garoppolo — who’s thrown just 272 career passes — is getting $48.7 million guaranteed as part of a record-breaking five-year, $137.5 million contract. Hell, Mike Glennon got a three-year, $45 million contract with $19 million guaranteed last offseason. Regardless of how good you think Bortles is, I think we can all agree he’s a (big) step up from Glennon.
4. The contract is expected to be structured in a way that lowers Bortles’ 2018 cap hit, allowing the Jaguars to do more in free agency this offseason. For example, Jacksonville wide receiver Allen Robinson is a free agent (and the top wide receiver on the market), and now the Jaguars will have more financial flexibility to keep him.
5. It gives the Jaguars more time to evaluate Bortles, and we know the upside is there for the former No. 3 overall pick. He’s still just 25 years old and has the prototypical pocket passer size (6’5″, 236) and arm strength, to go with very underrated mobility (he’s run for at least 310 yards in all four seasons). We see the flashes, it’s just a matter of consistency.
6. The other quarterback options weren’t great.
Washington gave up a crap ton to acquire Alex Smith, *and* gave him a four-year, $94 million contract extension with $71 million in guarantees.
Kirk Cousins is a free agent, but he’s going to have a ton of interest on the open market and will get a mega contract that may top Garoppolo’s record-breaking deal. We know Cousins is “good,” but he may not be worth quite what he’ll get paid. And we don’t know he would’ve wanted to go to Jacksonville even if the Jaguars made him their main target.
Drew Brees is also a free agent, but the 39-year-old is expected to stay with the Saints.
Case Keenum just had a tremendous year with the Vikings, but it seems just as likely the 30-year-old regresses closer to the guy who’s had a sub-80 passer rating in three of his five seasons (especially without the Vikings’ tremendous receiving corps).
Sam Bradford has been solid when he’s been able to stay on the field, but he’s now 30 and was limited to two games in 2017 due to a knee injury.
There were rumors that the Jaguars may target Eli Manning in a trade, but he’s 37 and just had a very rough year (13 interceptions, 11 fumbles, 80.6 passer rating).
A.J. McCarron, well, we certainly have no idea if the 27-year-old career backup is a starting-caliber quarterback.
7. The Jaguars can — and should — still draft a quarterback in the first few rounds. That quarterback won’t be asked to start right away and will have the opportunity to develop. And if Bortles proves to not be the answer after a season or two, maybe the 2018 draft pick can be the guy.
8. Lastly, what’s probably the most obvious explanation: the Jaguars just went to the AFC Championship Game with Bortles as their quarterback!
They scored 45 points at Pittsburgh in the AFC Divisional Round win with Bortles as their quarterback. They had the lead in the final five minutes at New England in the AFC Championship Game with Bortles as their quarterback. They were a capable Super Bowl team with Bortles as their quarterback.
Yes, the main reasons the Jaguars performed so well in the playoffs were their elite defense and running game. But Bortles played efficient football in the postseason, with three touchdown passes, zero interceptions, and a 91.0 passer rating. He played to the Jaguars’ strengths and sprinkled in the big play when needed in the passing game.
Now, depending on the defense and the running game to be the team’s strengths is a difficult model for sustained success in today’s NFL; it’s a quarterback’s league. But there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Jaguars can keep winning this way for at least 2018, because it’s terrific *young* talent in these departments.
Additionally, Bortles had a pretty rough supporting cast in the passing game in 2017. Undrafted free agent (in 2016) Keelan Cole led the Jaguars in receiving yards with 748. Marquise Lee led the team in receptions with 56, which was tied for 57th in the NFL. The Jaguars will surely look to upgrade in this department, and a big upgrade could come by just keeping Allen Robinson around as I suggested earlier. It remains to be seen how explosive Robinson will be after tearing his ACL, but the 24-year-old put up huge numbers with Bortles in 2015 and 2016. According to Pro Football Focus, the 672 deep receiving yards Robinson and Bortles connected for in 2015 is a record since PFF began tracking the statistic.
So, when you add everything up, it just makes sense for the Jaguars to roll with Bortles as their starting quarterback for at least one more season. And this contract extension isn’t going to prevent the organization from moving on from Bortles if they aren’t sold he’s the answer heading into next offseason. Even if Bortles doesn’t get any better, this contract is very fair market value for his abilities. And if he improves, the contract will look like a steal.