With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the quarterback position on the Jacksonville Jaguars:
2018 cap hits of top returnees:
Blake Bortles -- $10 million
Pending free agents: Chad Henne
Key stat: Bortles, who turns 26 in April, has thrown 90 touchdown passes for 14,928 yards in his four seasons. Per the Jaguars, only four players have thrown for at least 15,000 and at least 90 touchdowns before turning 26: Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Dan Marino, and Matthew Stafford. Bortles already ranks second in franchise history in touchdown passes and interceptions (64) and ranks third in passing yards, attempts and completions.
Money matters: The team signed Bortles to a three-year extension through 2020 worth $54 million (up to $66.5 million with incentives) with $26.5 million guaranteed. The deal lowered his cap number from $19.053 million on the fifth-year option to $10 million in 2018. Bortles' new deal averages $18 million per season. The Jaguars haven't spent that kind of money on a quarterback since signing David Garrard to a seven-year, $60 million contract in 2008.
Big picture: Even with the new deal, the Jaguars essentially haven't committed themselves to Bortles beyond 2019. The contract structure includes a dead cap hit of only $5 million in 2020, so the Jaguars could easily move on with minimal punishment if Bortles falters or the team decides to go in another direction. So Bortles has two seasons to prove he is the long-term starter.
The game plan: With Bortles locked in, the Jaguars now turn their attention to finding a backup. If the Jaguars don't bring back Henne (likely at something less than the $3.5 million he made in 2017) there are plenty of available veterans from whom to choose, including Josh McCown, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith. Expect the Jaguars to draft a quarterback as well, though it's unlikely to be in the first round. Taking a quarterback this year would give him at least a year to sit and learn and potentially be in position to take over as the starter.