JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone announced after Thursday night’s preseason loss that there would be an open competition to determine the team’s starting quarterback, he essentially started the countdown to the end of Blake Bortles’ time in Jacksonville.
Maybe he will beat out Chad Henne -- and Brandon Allen, though Marrone made it pretty clear that it’s a two-man race -- and will retain the job he has had since Week 4 of his rookie season. If that’s the case, then Bortles could still have a future with the team that drafted him third overall in 2014.
But if Henne -- as expected -- wins the job, the Jaguars have to figure out what to do with Bortles.
The Jaguars could keep him on the roster to give them an experienced backup familiar with the offensive system in case Henne were to be injured. That presents an expensive problem, though.
The Jaguars picked up Bortles’ fifth-year option, which would pay him $19.053 million in 2018. That amount is guaranteed for injury only, meaning that if Bortles were to suffer an injury that made him unable to pass a physical next year, the Jaguars would have to pay him that amount even if he cannot play.
If the Jaguars keep him to back up Henne, there’s a chance that could happen. He could get injured during a game in which Henne was unable to play. That’s a huge risk, one that isn’t worth taking. The Jaguars could still keep him and Allen on the roster but opt to make Bortles inactive each week and have Allen be the No. 2.
That’s not a good look, though, and it takes up a roster spot -- and based on what we saw Thursday night against Tampa Bay, the Jaguars can’t afford to waste a spot on a third quarterback. They need help in a lot of other areas, particularly on the offensive line, in the secondary and at linebacker.
The other option would be to cut Bortles. Once the Jaguars sit Bortles for Henne, there’s no turning back. Bortles would no longer be a part of the team’s plans and there’s no benefit to keeping him on the roster. Eat his guaranteed $3.24 million in salary in 2017 and eliminate the possibility of him getting hurt and being potentially on the hook for more than $19 million.
That might be the best thing for Bortles, too. Allow him to get a fresh start elsewhere in a backup role where he could eventually compete to become a starter.