When the Oakland Raiders announced on Thursday they had signed quarterback Derek Carr to a 5-year, $125-million contract, the entire NFL took notice. And for quarterbacks like Blake Bortles, the message was as loud as any he has heard. Is he ready to become the Jacksonville Jaguars version of the next $100-million man?
Looking at the NFL landscape right now, it’s hard to image Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell making such an offer to the fourth-year pro. But there is a chance things can “work out” for the quarterback and the franchise moving forward. The Jaguars announced in May that the team had picked up Bortles’ fifth-year option with a catch. He had to stay healthy and he had to put up better numbers than he did in 2016. He also had to perform better, stop turning the ball over and show more signs of being a leader of the organization.
If anything, Blake Bortles has been put on notice. While Andrew Luck of Indianapolis, Cam Newton of Carolina and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill have all joined the quaint fraternity while Bortles has been in the NFL, each can make a case they deserve the new contract and are all in a better situation than the Jacksonville Jaguars signal caller.
Bortles has to prove his worth.
When asked in 2015 about the potential of earning a $100-million contract, Bortles – like most sports stars – said he had that kind of deal in mind. Coming off a rookie season that was more failure than success, Bortles showed a glimpse of potential with 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015 – both team records.
“$100 million is always exciting,” Bortles said in a Florida Times-Union story. “Those guys all earn it. They’re great quarterbacks and they get paid what they deserve.
“That’s the goal. I try and get better each and every day and why not make a career out of this, not a job? I want to be here long term and do as much as I can to make this team better and have a blast doing it.”
The thought was that potential would force Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan to open his checkbook and write a bunch of zeros. The future seemed steady. Another season like 2015 and more wins for the franchise and the team would have no problem making “history.”
Blake Bortles didn’t comply with the playlist. The team was once again bottom feeders. Bortles looked lost at times, his throws were erratic. The natives in North Florida were restless.
The words the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback spoke fell on deaf ears. Now, with a seat that is warmer than most starters in the NFL, Bortles comes to a crossroads in his career.
Per Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, Bortles completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns with 16 interceptions; three of those picks were returned for touchdowns, giving him 11 in his career. Bortles also suffered a Grade 1 sprained right AC joint midway through the season, aggravated that five weeks later, and also dealt with painful tendinitis in his right wrist.
Bortles’ mechanics were a mess, too. His footwork got sloppy and his delivery was out of whack. He brought the ball below his waist and way behind his body during his windup, which increased the amount of time between his decision to throw and his release.
Things got so bad he brought in personal throwing coach Adam Dedeaux, who works with Tom House at 3DQB in California, midway through the season.
The team is hoping the decision to go back to California in the offseason will yield better results – the kind that led to the breakout year in 2015. The kind that has fans screaming with excitement. The kind that has the Jacksonville Jaguars saying, “That’s our franchise quarterback.”
Carr, who was taken in the same Draft class, yet in the second round, is moving the needle upward in Oakland. And in a bit of irony, with Jack Del Rio on the sidelines. For those of you who aren’t aware, Del Rio was the last head coach to post a winning record in Jacksonville. The last man to take the Jacksonville Jaguars to the playoffs.
That was 10 seasons ago.
The Carr contact doesn’t just affect Bortles. It doesn’t just put the Jaguars on notice. Washington’s Kirk Cousins watched with anticipation. The Detroit Lions may have to up the ante with their signal-caller, Matthew Stafford. Bortles was the Jacksonville Jaguars to make their move on this continual chess board. The 25-year-old is running out of time. The Jacksonville Jaguars may be running out of patience.
Before the Jaguars can make their move, Blake Bortles must make his. There is another big payday on the table for Bortles in Jacksonville. There could be $100-million waiting after 2018. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be willing to pay it as long as their starting quarterback is willing to prove he is worth it.