Normally, the quarterback of a team that makes it to the conference championship game would be pretty much guaranteed to return to the team the following season. That's a whole lot of success to turn your back on, after all. This year, though, there are two teams that lost in their conference championship that may not have the same quarterback by the start of next season.
One of those teams is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blake Bortles struggled badly through his first three seasons in the NFL, and it was quite a surprise when the Jags picked up his $19 million fifth-year option last offseason. Bortles showed a decent amount of progress in 2017, though his play was obviously not the driving force in getting Jacksonville to the title game.
Because the Jaguars can save themselves $19 million against the cap by cutting ties with Bortles prior to March 14, there is some question as to whether or not he'll be back. For his part, Bortles would prefer to stay.
"I've enjoyed my four years here in Jacksonville, and I would love to be able to play here for as long as they would let me," Bortles said Monday, per ESPN.com. "What they do and all the decisions that are made are kind of out of my control. I'd be thrilled to be able to stay here and play here, and hopefully that can happen."
The Jaguars would seemingly benefit more from the $19 million in cap space and the ability to make an upgrade at the quarterback position than they would from keeping Bortles in place, but coach Doug Marrone was non-committal when asked about whether the team had made a decision.
"I would really have to take a step back and look at it," Marrone said. "I don't think I'm in the best mindset to talk about any of our players from that standpoint of what is going on. I'm happy for all of our players, I'm happy for all their contributions and what they have done. Now it's a matter of taking a step back and giving myself some time and looking at things as a whole."
Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin put together one of the NFL's best defenses in 2017, but the offense let the team down in several games and Bortles' inconsistency was a part of that. If the Jaguars feel like they can find an upgrade in either free agency or the draft, it would not at all be a surprise if they changed directions. Bortles may or may not have suitors on the open market, as he does not have much of a track record of above-average play during his four years as a starter.