When the Jacksonville Jaguars picked up Blake Bortles fifth-year option earlier this week, executive vice president Tom Coughlin said the move was "a smart business decision for the team for several reasons."
As is his modus operandi, Coughlin did not expound on any of the "reasons" that made it "smart business."
On Thursday, general manager Dave Caldwell gave some insight into the thinking behind the Jags picking up the $19 million option for 2018 on the enigmatic quarterback. Jacksonville's rationale was that the contract number for Bortles end up being average starting quarterback money.
"I think that slots him as the 16th-highest quarterback next year, right around the median," Caldwell told Pro Football Talk of the $19 million salary. "If he was to get the franchise tender that puts him at the third- or fourth- or fifth-ranked quarterback depending on who gets new deals next year."
The Jags are set to pay Bortles about $3.2 million in the final year of his standard rookie contract, before the fifth-year option on the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 kicks in for a massive pay raise. In Caldwell's mind, the next two years average out to a pretty good deal for Jacksonville.
"We look at two-year values on our contracts," Caldwell said. "I think this year he's scheduled to make about $3.2 million in cash, and then the $19 million next year is just a little over $22 million, it's a two-year, $11 million average on what is considered a new deal, and that puts him not in the top 16 of quarterbacks."
The $11-million average would slate Bortles in as the 22nd-highest paid QB, if we are gerrymandering the data. That number is in no man's land among QB contracts. After Tyrod Taylor and Mike Glennon's $15 million-per-year average, there is a cliff to the infantile contracts of Mitchell Trubisky and Jared Goff around $7 million, per OverTheCap.com.
With the fifth-year option guaranteed for injury only, the Jags could cut bait on Bortles if 25-year-old gunslinger struggles again this year. If, however, he got hurt, the Jags would be saddled with a balky number.
"We take on the injury risk, but we look at the value total of the deal and we feel comfortable about the financials of it," Caldwell said.
With the franchise tag for quarterbacks around $23 million next year, the Jags opted to take on the risk of injury to potentially save around $4 million in 2018 -- and keeping an extra year open to use the tag. It's a risk the team is comfortable with, whether anyone outside the building believes it smart or not.