Blake Bortles

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/1/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

All Broncos QBs Ineligible For Week 12

The Broncos and the NFL have run into a significant problem. Jeff Driskel‘s positive COVID-19 test earlier this week will lead to an unprecedented situation.

None of the Broncos’ three other QBs will be eligible to play Sunday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles have been deemed high-risk close contacts of Driskel. The NFL forced the Broncos to pull the three passers out of practice earlier today, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

With the Broncos having no available QBs, this certainly puts the viability of Sunday’s Denver-New Orleans game in doubt. However, this game is still on schedule for Sunday, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets. This seems like a tenuous proposition, but as of now, the Broncos would be forced to deploy a true emergency quarterback. They cannot sign any free agent passer to play Sunday, due to COVID-19 protocols.

Driskel’s Thursday positive test coincided with his three non-infected teammates not wearing masks, Schefter adds (on Twitter). It is not known how long the trio went without masks, but it was evidently long enough for the NFL to sideline an entire team’s QB room. The Patriots saw Cam Newton sidelined because of the virus earlier this season, and COVID-positive Lamar Jackson will miss Tuesday’s Ravens-Steelers game — should it stay on as scheduled. But the Broncos’ predicament drags the NFL into new territory regarding the virus.

The Broncos have a wide receiver on their practice squad, Kendall Hinton, who played quarterback at Wake Forest for three seasons, Klis adds (on Twitter). Quality control coach Rob Calabrese worked in that role at practice Saturday, Klis tweets. Hinton attempted 251 career passes with the Demon Deacons, though most of them came in 2015. He ran for 390 yards and seven TDs that season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Sign Blake Bortles To Practice Squad

Blake Bortles won’t be leaving Denver after all. The Broncos released Bortles on Saturday after Drew Lock got healthy enough to return, but a source told Benjamin Allbright of KOA 850 AM that they’re re-signing Bortles to the practice squad (Twitter link).

Allbright added that Bortles impressed in the quarterback room, and it sounds like the team wants him around as a veteran mentor to the young Lock. For now the team has former Boise State quarterback and 2019 UDFA Brett Rypien as the backup, with Jeff Driskel still on the roster as the third-string. Bortles originally signed with the Broncos back on September 22nd.

The third overall pick of the 2014 draft, Bortles was the starter in Jacksonville for the first five years of his career. After that tumultuous stint he signed in Los Angeles last year, and spent 2019 carrying Jared Goff‘s clipboard. Thanks to the league’s new COVID-19 rules, veterans like Bortles are allowed to sign to practice squads for the first time.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Release QB Blake Bortles

With Drew Lock looking like he’ll return to the field this weekend, the Broncos have moved on from one of their other quarterbacks. Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post reports (via Twitter) that the team is releasing Blake Bortles. The team has signed practice squad defensive lineman Sylvester Williams to take his spot.

Following five trick-or-treat seasons with the Jaguars, the 2014 third-overall pick had to settle for a backup gig with the Rams last season. He saw time in three games behind Jared Goff, completing one of his two pass attempts. Bortles sat in free agency for the entire offseason, but he eventually got a contract from the Broncos following Lock’s injury in Week 2.

With the 23-year-old appearing to be recovered from his rotator cuff strain, the Broncos apparently so no use for the 28-year-old Bortles. The team will instead move forward with Brett Rypien or Jeff Driskel as the backup quarterbacks.

Williams, a first-round pick by the Broncos back in 2013, reunited with his old team earlier this month when he inked a practice squad deal. The 31-year-old appeared in five games for the Chargers last season, compiling five tackles.

The Broncos have made a few other moves to their roster. Mike Klis of 9News in Denver reports (via Twitter) that the team has promoted running back Jeremy Cox and linebacker Josh Watson to their active roster. Cox, a former standout at Old Dominion, will serve as the third running back with Melvin Gordon on the shelf. Watson joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2019. He’s appeared in nine career games for Denver, collecting a pair of tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos To Sign Blake Bortles

That was fast. Just moments after we learned of Blake Bortles‘ visit with the Broncos, the quarterback agreed to sign with Denver (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). Everything is in place for a one-year deal, pending COVID protocols. 

[RELATED: Broncos’ Courtland Sutton Tears ACL]

This marks Bortles’ third stop in the NFL, following stints with the Jaguars and Rams. Now, Bortles will join the Broncos to give them support under center as Drew Lock heals up. Lock is expected to miss three-to-five weeks with a severe strain of his rotator cuff.

The 28-year-old enjoyed his best season in 2015 when he threw for 4,428 yards with 35 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. In 2017, he was under center for the Jaguars’ deep playoff run, though he was unable to keep their lead in the second half of the AFC title game against the Patriots.

The Broncos have yet to formally move Lock to injured reserve, but they already have available spots following injuries to Courtland Sutton and defensive end Dre’Mont Jones. Sutton, unfortunately, is done for the year with an ACL tear.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos To Meet With Blake Bortles

Former Jaguars and Rams quarterback Blake Bortles will meet with the Broncos on Tuesday afternoon, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The former No. 3 overall pick started for five seasons as a pro, but threw just two passes in 2019.

So far, Bortles hasn’t come close to living up to his draft status. Since Bortles entered the league with the Jaguars, roughly 20 quarterbacks have attempted at least 2,000 passes: among those signal-callers, Bortles ranks dead last in adjusted net yards per attempt, quarterback rating, and interception rate, and is second-to-last in touchdown rate.

Despite all of his flaws, the Jaguars handed Bortles a three-year, $54MM deal in 2018 with $26.5MM guaranteed. Oddly enough, he was the first 2014 first-round pick to receive an extension –ahead of stars like wide receiver Odell Beckham, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and linebacker Khalil Mack. One year later, they pushed him out the door for Nick Foles, leading him to L.A.

The Broncos are in need of some help under center after losing Drew Lock for three to five weeks with a strained rotator cuff. For now, Jeff Driskel is slated to serve as the fill-in, but he’ll need a signal caller to backstop him. Depending on how the meeting goes, Bortles could be their Plan B.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Stanley, Tate, Broncos, TV

The Ravens and Ronnie Stanley began discussing an extension in February, but after taking a long break prior to an August negotiation resumption, the sides remain without a deal. An understandable reason may be holding up the talks. Buzz has emerged that Stanley is seeking a contract that pays him north of Laremy Tunsil‘s market-reshaping $22MM-per-year pact, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (Insider link). Stanley has been diplomatic about the talks, but he is poised to cash in soon. Tunsil, of course, carried unique leverage after the Texans dealt two first-round picks to land him. Stanley, however, is Baltimore’s top lineman and became a top-tier tackle ahead of his contract year. The Ravens will have the option of a pricey franchise tag, in a year when the cap could plummet by a record margin, if they cannot extend Stanley by the March tag deadline.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • In another AFC North matter, one of the Bengals‘ wide receivers may be unhappy. And it is not A.J. Green. The Bengals made Auden Tate a healthy scratch Thursday night, and his agent floated the prospect of a trade. While Deiric Jackson stopped short of saying his client has requested one, it is clear Team Tate is not content. “He was healthy and ready to go,” Jackson said, via CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin. “If they don’t know how to use him, I’m sure there are plenty of other teams that would love to have a weapon like that offensively.” Tate played 15 snaps in Cincinnati’s opener. The Bengals used the 6-foot-5 target frequently last season — when he caught 40 passes for 575 yards — but now have Green back and second-rounder Tee Higgins in the fold. Two seasons remain on Tate’s seventh-round contract.
  • The Broncos have put off major investments at inside linebacker since Brandon Marshall‘s 2016 extension, but Mike Klis of 9News notes the team considered both signing street free agent Christian Kirksey and using its first-round pick on Patrick Queen this year. This is not the first time the Broncos were linked to a first-round likebacker under Vic Fangio. Had they not executed a trade-down for Noah Fant in the 2019 first round, they would have chosen Devin Bush 10th overall. Denver, which cut longtime starter Todd Davis this month, used 2019 breakout player Alexander Johnson and 2018 draftee Josey Jewell as its three-down ‘backers Monday.
  • Phillip Lindsay will not be available for the Broncos against the Steelers. The talented running back is battling turf toe, leaving Royce Freeman as Melvin Gordon‘s top Week 2 backup.
  • Blake Bortles remains a free agent, but the former Jaguars starter and Rams backup is waiting on the right situation to open up, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. After starting for five seasons, Bortles threw just two passes in 2019.
  • NFL owners are confident they will have “groundbreaking” TV deals in place by early 2021, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. The league was making progress during its negotiations with networks prior to the pandemic, and La Canfora adds that the contracts would likely have been finalized were it not for COVID-19. The next round of TV contracts were expected to be a game-changer for the NFL; projections of a $260MM-plus salary cap within a few years surfaced this past winter. While fanless stadiums amid the pandemic will cut into that short-term growth, teams authorizing big extensions in recent weeks points to confidence in long-term financial stability. The NFL’s ESPN contract expires after the 2021 season; its deals with the other networks are not up until the end of 2022.

The Top QBs Left In NFL Free Agency

Just after the NFL Draft, Jameis Winston found his new NFL home by signing a low-cost one-year deal with the Saints. Even with the former No. 1 overall pick off the market, there are still several notable names left. Here’s a rundown of some of the passers available here in May:

  1. Cam Newton: A slew of injuries have hampered the one-time MVP and the ongoing pandemic has prevented clubs from having their team doctors take a close inspection. Newton has gone under the knife multiple times throughout his career, including surgeries to his throwing shoulder and left foot. While Winston settled for a deal to serve as a backup – and perhaps a QB3 – Newton is still pushing for a starting job. Right now, there aren’t any clubs willing to hand him a QB1 gig, so he’ll probably have to wait this one out or temper his expectations. The Patriots, who currently have Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham as their top QBs, could be a fit, but there hasn’t been much movement on that front yet.
  2. Joe Flacco: Was Flacco an elite quarterback in his prime? That question will plague the football world forever. What we do know is that Flacco profiles as an experienced and inexpensive backup option for teams in need. The 35-year-old was sidelined for the second half of 2019 – his first season with the Broncos – and waiting for an opportunity to open up. At one point, Flacco was asked about his thoughts on the Eagles. But, with Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts, Nate Sudfeld, and Kyle Lauletta on the depth chart, that no longer seems like a fit.
  3. Blake Bortles: Despite all of his flaws, the Jaguars handed Blake Bortles a three-year, $54MM deal in 2018 with $26.5MM guaranteed. One year later, they pushed him out the door for Nick Foles, leading him to L.A. After throwing a grand total of three passes last year, the former No. 3 overall pick is looking for a solid backup opportunity. The Rams have several QBs under contract behind Jared Goff, but there could still be an opportunity for him to return.
  4. Mike Glennon: With a dearth of quality QBs on the market in 2017, Glennon landed a three-year, $45MM deal with the Bears. Now 30 with a career 6-16 record, he’ll come for a lot cheaper. He earned just $1MM in base pay last year with the Raiders.
  5. Cody Kessler: Even after Tom Brady bid farewell, the Patriots decided that they didn’t need the former fourth-round pick on the roster. He’s got 12 career starts on his resume – unfortunately, the first eight came with the 2016 Browns.
  6. Trevor Siemian: We haven’t heard Siemian’s name mentioned recently. Fortunately, he’s said to have made a full recovery from his brutal Week 2 ankle injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Jaguars Extend Blake Bortles

Two years ago today, the Jaguars took themselves out of the quarterback market by committing to Blake Bortles for three more years. The move was widely panned and, ultimately, it did not work out for Jacksonville. 

The Jaguars were fresh off of an AFC Championship Game appearance and their first playoff appearance in nine years. Bortles, meanwhile, tossed a career-low 13 interceptions. Still, his overall body of work did not inspire a ton of confidence – his 60.2% completion percentage actually marked a new career best.

Despite the question marks, Bortles became the first 2014 first-round pick to receive an extension – stars like Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack were still negotiating for their new deals (They all, of course, secured long-term riches, though Mack has to get his elsewhere.)

Reported to be a three-year, $54MM pact, the deal included $26.5MM guaranteed with the potential to reach $66.5MM in total through bonuses. He did not earn those incentives, nor did he get to play out his deal – Bortles was cut loose in 2019, clearing the way for Nick Foles to take over.

Bortles went 3-9 in 12 starts for the Jaguars as head coach Doug Marrone flip-flopped him with Cody Kessler. During his five-year run with the Jaguars, Bortles led the league with 75 interceptions – more than one INT per start.

With his stock at an all-time low, the former No. 3 overall pick hooked on with the Rams last offseason. Playing behind Jared Goff, Bortles appeared in only three games and attempted two passes. Without a real opportunity to play in 2019, Bortles did not get a chance to silence his critics. Next month, he’ll be a free agent once again, and the Rams’ level of interest in bringing him back as their QB2 is unclear.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blake Bortles Expects To Become Starting QB Again

After a mostly disappointing tenure with the Jaguars, who made him the No. 3 overall pick of the 2014 draft, Blake Bortles was released by Jacksonville in March and caught on with the Rams a week later. Los Angeles obviously has Jared Goff entrenched as its starting QB, but Bortles expects to become a starting signal-caller in the NFL once again, as Kevin Patra of NFL.com writes.

Of course, one wouldn’t expect Bortles, 27, to say anything different. He understands that he will serve as Goff’s clipboard holder in 2019, but as a five-year starter, a former first-round draft pick, and a collegiate standout, his competitive fire is doubtlessly still burning. But if he does get another opportunity to start in the NFL, he is going to have to fight for it.

In that sense, landing with the Rams was probably the best possible scenario for Bortles. LA head coach Sean McVay has already developed a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, and if Bortles can put together some quality tape this preseason, it’s certainly possible that a club with an uncertain QB situation in 2020 would at least give Bortles a real chance at competing for a starting gig.

Bortles is already impressed with the 33-year-old HC. He said, “[s]eeing how [McVay] coaches, how all the other coaches coach and how the guys are receptive and take it, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Bortles added, “at the same time, I also expect to be a starter in this league again, and I know it’s not going to be here in L.A. So I’m trying to just better myself. … And if I get an opportunity to play, great. If not, then I spent a year learning from McVay, and being around a really good organization.”

Bortles will make just $1MM with the Rams this year, a far cry from the $5.5MM in base pay he was due to collect from the Jaguars. But he does have over $40MM in career earnings to date, so he won’t be hurting too badly.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.