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.