Blake Bortles

Rams Sign Blake Bortles

After visiting with him today, the Rams have signed embattled signal-caller Blake Bortles to a one-year deal, per a team announcement. ESPN’s Jeff Darlington was the first to report that a contract was being finalized (Twitter link).

Bortles will certainly test the theory that Rams head coach Sean McVay can make any quarterback successful, and he will serve as the backup to starter Jared Goff. This signing also likely means that Goff’s 2018 backup, Sean Mannion, will be moving on. Mannion is an unrestricted free agent.

The third overall selection in the 2014 draft, Bortles hasn’t come close to living up to his draft status. Since Bortles entered the NFL with the Jaguars, 17 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.

Bortles has never worked with McVay, but the two do have a tangential connection. Greg Olson was Bortles’ Jacksonville offensive coordinator from 2015-16 before taking over as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach under McVay in 2017. Olson left for Oakland after one year in Los Angeles, but it’s fair to assume he’s given McVay a Bortles scouting report that McVay apparently likes well enough. Plus, Bortles’ first OC, Jedd Fisch, is an offensive assistant on the Rams’ staff.

The Jaguars will certainly be interested to see how much money the Rams will be paying Bortles. Bortles still had guaranteed salary remaining on his Jacksonville deal, but thanks to offset language, the Jags will receive a cap credit equal to the amount of Bortles’ base salary (up to $6.5MM).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rams To Host Blake Bortles

The Rams will meet with quarterback Blake Bortles on Monday, according to Mike Silver of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Bortles, if signed by Los Angeles, would certainly test the theory that Rams head coach Sean McVay can make any quarterback successful. Current Jared Goff backup Sean Mannion is unrestricted free agent, so the club is in need of a new No. 2. Bortles, who was released earlier this week after the Jaguars signed Nick Foles, could fit the bill.

The third overall selection in the 2014 draft, Bortles hasn’t come close to living up to his draft status. Since Bortles entered the NFL, 17 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.

Given his track record, Bortles should come relatively cheap. The Jaguars, though, are surely hoping he earns significant backup money with his next club. Bortles still had guaranteed salary remaining on his Jacksonville deal, but thanks to offset language, the Jags will receive a cap credit equal to the amount of Bortles’ next base salary (up to $6.5MM).

Bortles has never worked with McVay, but the two do have a tangential connection. Greg Olson was Bortles’ Jacksonville offensive coordinator from 2015-16 before taking over as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach under McVay in 2017. Olson left for Oakland after one year in Los Angeles, but it’s fair to assume he’s given McVay a Bortles scouting report.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars Release Blake Bortles

After agreeing to sign Nick Foles, the Jaguars have released Blake Bortles, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network first reported several days ago that Bortles would be cut (Twitter link). Pro Football Talk tweets that Bortles will not be designated as a post-June 1 cut, which means the Jags will absorb a $16.5MM cap charge this season. However, short-term pain will give way to long-term gain, as Bortles will be completely off the books by 2020. That season, the Jaguars will also get cap credit (up to $6.5MM) based on the quarterback’s 2019 earnings (via Florio).

The writing appeared to be on the wall for a while now, especially after it was reported earlier this month that the Jags were the favorites to sign Foles.

The third overall pick of the 2014 draft, Bortles never lived up to his draft status. Bortles appeared to be on the ropes several times in Jacksonville, but he managed to battle back each time. After nearly being benched for Chad Henne before the season, he led the Jaguars to a shocking level of success in 2017, and helped them reach the AFC Championship Game. In response, the team awarded him a three-year, $54MM extension.

But Bortles collapsed this past year, and he was eventually benched for Cody Kessler, although he did reclaim the starting job at the very end of the season. In 13 games and 12 starts last year, Bortles threw for 2,718 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He will likely have to settle for a backup role this offseason wherever he lands.

Jaguars Not Ready To Release Blake Bortles

Blake Bortles‘ time with the Jaguars could be coming to a close, but he won’t get his pink slip on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. Before potentially releasing the quarterback, the Jaguars will likely wait to make sure they can find a quality substitute in free agency. 

[RELATED: Jaguars Release Malik Jackson, Carlos Hyde, Others]

That QB substitute, reportedly, will be Nick Foles, but nothing is final yet. Free agency does not formally begin until Thursday and the so-called “legal tampering” period does not get underway until Monday, March 11.

Only $6.5MM of Bortles’ $16.5MM contract is guaranteed for next season, so the Jaguars are expected to either release him or try to unload him in a Brock Osweiler type of trade. The former No. 3 overall pick is due a $1MM bonus on March 19, so it would be a shocker to see his situation linger beyond that date. By then, the Jaguars should either have a better signal caller in the fold or a plan to roll with Bortles plus a rookie passer.

Bortles, 27 in April, threw for only 13 touchdowns against eleven interceptions last season. In the middle of his 12 starts (which resulted in a 3-9 record), Bortles was demoted twice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jaguars To Start Blake Bortles

The Blake Bortles era isn’t over yet in Jacksonville. On Wednesday, head coach Doug Marrone told reporters that Bortles will start in the team’s season finale against the Texans. 

Bortles was demoted twice this season, which signaled that a return to Jacksonville is unlikely. It’s unclear whether there’s any hope for that now, but Bortles did come through over the weekend to help the Jags beat the Dolphins. The Jaguars wound up winning 17-7 and, in theory, another strong showing from Bortles could impact the team’s offseason plans.

It was like holy s—, I miss this,” Bortles said (via Phillip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union). “I wanted to play. I wanted to get another opportunity. Obviously, I didn’t want to see anything happen to Cody, but to be given an opportunity, it just kind of feels like you’re back where you belong.”

Only $6.5MM of Bortles’ $16.5MM contract is guaranteed for next season, so the Jaguars are expected to either release him or try to unload him in a Brock Osweiler type of trade. At least, that’s the most likely scenario for now. Sunday’s game will be largely meaningless for the Jaguars, but it could have major ramifications for next year’s QB plans.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Sherman, Bortles, Lincoln Riley, Ravens

It won’t be this year or the next, but at some point before he calls it quits on a likely Hall of Fame career, cornerback Richard Sherman is likely to make the move to safety, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch writes.

The four-time First Team All-Pro selection is open to it at least, saying:

“It’s definitely something that I’ve looked at,” Sherman said. “And something that I’ve talked with (Charles Woodson) about.”

In the first of a three-year deal with the 49ers, Sherman still rates as an above average cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. Now in his 30s, however, the star defender is already looking to make a similar move that prolonged the careers of Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams. Despite the move, don’t expect him to play into his late 30s.

“I think 35 is probably my cutoff,” Sherman said. “I don’t think I want to play … they’d have a hard time getting me out of bed at 35 to go play. I think I’ve got four or five more (years) in me.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • After his benching, Blake Bortles is unlikely to be back with the Jaguars next season, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes. With $6.5MM of Bortles’ $16.5MM contract next season guaranteed, the Jaguars can hope that some team signs him for $6.5MM — unlikely — or package him in a trade with a team that would be considering signing him, a la Brock Osweiler. The Jaguars will still have a cap charge of $10MM, but the team can push $5MM of that into 2020.
  • The Ravens did not activate cornerback Jaylen Hill from the PUP list, officially ending his season. Recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, Hill was unlikely to take the field after recently suffering a setback.
  • With the college game becoming more intertwined with the professional ranks, Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports listed 10 college coaches who could make the jump to the NFL. To no one’s surprise, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley was at the top of the heap thanks to his high-powered offense that produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield, and potentially another in Kyler Murray. Other notable names on the list include Stanford’s David Shaw, former 49ers coach and current Michigan man Jim Harbaugh and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

Jaguars Bench Blake Bortles

For the second time this season, the Jaguars have demoted Blake Bortles. The reeling team will turn to Cody Kessler in Week 13. Doug Marrone announced the change Monday.

The Jags demoted Bortles during a loss earlier this season, but after Kessler’s cameo, the defending AFC South champions reinstalled Bortles as their starter. That decision did not work out. The Jags lost their next four games and are now 3-8.

With its losing streak now at seven games, Jacksonville fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Now, Bortles will head to the bench. The Jags acquired Kessler from the Browns this offseason, one that may be scrutinized for a while.

During a rocky 2017 Bortles season, the Jaguars were viewed as a prime suitor for quarterbacks in this year’s unusually deep market. But Bortles (and a No. 1-ranked defense) helped the Jags to the AFC championship game. Instead of moving on from Bortles, the franchise signed him to an $18MM-AAV extension and did not make a significant investment in a possible challenger for the embattled starter. Kessler, acquired for a conditional 2019 seventh-rounder, was the top offseason add.

Prior to their decision to bypass the the 2018 QB marketplace — which included Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater — the Jaguars passed on Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson to select Leonard Fournette during the 2017 draft. They now figure to be interested in a 2019 upgrade at the position though will have a difficult time shedding Bortles’ contract. The fifth-year passer is signed through 2020 and would cost the Jags $16.5MM in dead money to cut in 2019. Bortles has a $1MM roster bonus due in March, and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com adds (via Twitter) $6.5MM of his $14MM 2019 base salary is fully guaranteed.

Bortles posted a 46.8 Total QBR this season and threw for fewer than 130 yards in his past two games. The 2014 No. 3 overall pick has completed less than 60 percent of his passes in six of the seven games that have comprised the Jags’ losing streak.

A 2016 third-round pick, Kessler’s made eight starts — all in Cleveland’s 1-15 2016 season — and has thrown seven touchdown passes compared to four interceptions. He completed 70 percent of his passes, albeit at just 5.2 yards per attempt, in his lone Jags appearance this season.

The team is now plunging toward another top-10 pick, which would be its 11th in the past 12 years. Next year’s draft crop, though, is not expected to be as fruitful at the quarterback position as the most recent group of prospects was.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Bell, Jags, Bosa, Michel

The Steelers are still hopeful that they can trade Le’Veon Bell and net a third-round pick or better in return before Tuesday’s deadline, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Bell, as we heard earlier this week, does not want to be traded, and given that he would need to sign his franchise tender before he can be dealt, he holds all the cards in that regard. La Canfora tweets that Bell (predictably) balked at returning to the Steelers on the exempt list, so there are still plenty of moving pieces to keep an eye on before this situation is finally resolved.

Now let’s take a quick swing around the AFC:

  • Blake Bortles played decently for the Jaguars during their loss in London today, but we heard earlier this week that the fifth-year pro is on a short leash after he was benched during last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. However, Albert Breer of TheMMQB observes that Bortles still took the lion’s share of first-team reps in practice this week (though Cody Kessler did get a few, as anticipated), so it does not appear that there is a quarterback competition at the moment.
  • La Canfora writes that the Jaguars were very much interested in Kirk Cousins last offseason and were prepared to offer him a significant free agent contract and move on from Bortles. However, they were not willing to meet the $30MM-per-year figure that Cousins ultimately got from the Vikings (they hoped to land him for something in the $20-24MM range). Instead, of course, they gave Bortles a pay-as-you-go, team-friendly extension, which allows the club the flexibility to move on this offseason if it so chooses.
  • Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is expected to return to the field for Jacksonville’s Week 10 matchup on November 11 against the Colts, per Schefter.
  • It does not appear as if the Chargers will get Joey Bosa back for their November 4 matchup against the Seahawks, as they had been hoping for some time. Although Bosa is making progress, Schefter writes that he is not “anywhere near ready to play right now.” It is unclear when Bosa will make his much-anticipated return to the field, but the wait will carry until at least the second week of November.
  • Sony Michel returned to practice for the Patriots yesterday, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. While Michel will not play in the team’s Monday night contest against the Bills tomorrow, he may be ready to go against the Packers next week. Reiss adds that New England could promote Kenneth Farrow from the taxi squad for tomorrow’s game in order to give themselves three healthy backs.
  • The relationship between Browns HC Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley is not improving, and one of the two could be relieved of his duties in short order.

Jaguars Won’t Trade For Eli Manning

Many have blamed Blake Bortles for the Jaguars’ slow start, but the team doesn’t seem focused on a quarterback upgrade. They won’t be trading for QB between now and the Oct. 30 deadline, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com hears (on Twitter), and that includes Giants QB Eli Manning

Manning, of course, has history with Jaguars EVP Tom Coughlin, and the Jags’ football czar has tons of admiration for the player who helped him capture two Super Bowl trophies. However, the Jaguars believe that the arrival of Carlos Hyde and the eventual return of Leonard Fournette will balance out the offense and bring the best out in Bortles. Bortles has been shaky, to say the least, but the Jags believe that they need an adequately mobile QB to anchor their offense, and Bortles offers that.

Manning has an impressive resume, but he hasn’t been setting the world on fire this year either. The Giants are 1-5 on the year, and Manning’s inability to air it out may be the team’s biggest issue on either side of the ball. Through six contests, Manning has completed nearly 69% of his throws, but he’s been brought down in the backfield 20 times, putting him on pace for a dubious new career high.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jags To Start Blake Bortles Against Eagles

Blake Bortles will get his job back in Week 8. Doug Marrone announced Monday the longtime Jaguars starter’s run of first-string work will continue, despite being benched on Sunday.

Cody Kessler relieved Bortles in a loss to the Texans, but Marrone believes the fifth-year quarterback provides the Jags with “the best opportunity to win.” However, Bortles will have a “short leash,” per ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter).

Kessler will get reps with the Jags’ starting offense this week in practice, Schefter adds, but the job remains Bortles’. Kessler completed 21 of 30 passes for 156 yards in the Jags’ 20-7 home loss, their third straight defeat. Bortles fumbled twice and was yanked after completing just six passes. His 46.1 Total QBR sits 23rd in the NFL and is down considerably from last season’s mark. Bortles has thrown for 1,735 yards, with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions, this season.

This is obviously interesting given Jacksonville’s offseason. The Jags avoided the most extensive quarterback market in years and re-signed Bortles to an extension. While it wasn’t a big-money deal, at $18MM per year, the team didn’t add much in the way of competition for its maligned starter, only trading a late-round pick for Kessler. With the Jags still holding the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense, Bortles’ inconsistency continues to plague the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.