By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
The Jaguars extensions keep coming, and the latest is the biggest.
Jacksonville has signed quarterback Blake Bortles to a three-year contract, the team announced. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the contract is worth $54 million, including $26.5 million in guaranteed money. The new deal replaces Bortles’ current contract, which had one year remaining on it via the fifth-year option included in his rookie contract.
“I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge how any of this stuff works and doing all this I told Ryan [Tollner], my agent, I was like, ‘man, let’s just get it done so I can just go play football. I really would love to know and have confirmation that this is where I’m going to be, and now let’s go to work and continue to build on what we did last year and go play,'” Bortles said during a conference call to discuss the new contract. “So happy and relieved and obviously extremely excited. It’s a dream come true to be able to sign a second contract by the team that drafted me. That was one of my goals from the start. It’s exciting to get it all done and get rolling now.”
The quarterback was scheduled to make $19 million in 2018, but will instead make an average of $18 million per season from 2018 to 2020. Bortles can make a maximum of $66.5 million with all incentives and escalators included, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
“Blake’s growth and development last season was a key to the success we had as a team,” Jaguarsexecutive VP Tom Coughlin said in a release from the team. “Blake has proven, with toughness and dependability, that he can be the leader this team needs going forward. Along with this contract come high expectations that he will continue to improve and help our team accomplish its ultimate goal.”
Due to his inconsistent nature, Bortles is one of the most polarizing figures associated with the Jaguarsorganization. Drafted third overall in 2014, Bortles arrived as the heir to the faceless throne in Jacksonville but has struggled as often as he’s been successful. He posted three 3,500-plus-yard seasons passing and has finished with a negative TD-to-INT ratio just once in his career. In the same breath, we must mention his up-and-down play, a breakdown of his mechanics in 2016 and his occasionally inexplicable decisions, which leave many to believe he’ll ultimately sink the Jaguars.
It was easy to pin the blame on him when Jacksonville went 3-13 in 2016, but not as much in 2017, when the Jaguars won 10 regular-season games and two playoff contests before falling to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Jacksonville is a young and wildly talented team (especially on the defensive side) that many felt was a good quarterback away from being the best in the AFC.
Having said that, anyone who watched Jacksonville’s postseason run would back Bortles. Sure, his AFC Wild Card performance wasn’t great when it came to his arm, but the quarterback surprised everyone by using his legs to extend drives in a 10-3 win on a windy day in Jacksonville.
A week later, he picked apart Pittsburgh’s defense as part of a brilliant gameplan schemed and called by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Just when Pittsburgh needed a stop, it couldn’t get one, because Bortles was busy capping a crucial drive with a touchdown pass to fullback Tommy Bohanon. In that postseason stretch, Bortles completed 49 of 85 attempts for 594 yards and three touchdowns (zero interceptions).
“We’ve always trusted Blake and we’re excited that he’ll lead our offense for years to come,” Jaguars center Brandon Linder said, per the team’s release. “He’s one of the toughest guys I know and I’m confident that he’ll continue to make us better on a daily basis.”
The money Bortles is receiving is equal to that performance — good, but not great. The new deal’s $26.5 million guaranteed sounds like a lot individually, but when compared with recent signings ($60.5 million guaranteed for Matthew Stafford, $54 million for Aaron Rodgers, $48.7 million for Jimmy Garoppolo), it’s not a massive sum. We can take that a step further when we look at average salaries for quarterback, where Bortles will land alongside Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Tom Bradyand — here’s the clincher — Ryan Tannehill in the $18-$20 million per year range.
The signing means Jacksonville is out of the impending Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, but as our own Matt Harmon tweeted, it doesn’t rule out a quarterback selection in April’s draft. In the meantime, the Jaguars will continue to ride the wave of euphoria into 2018 with the same man under center.