JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars showed more support for quarterback Blake Bortles by exercising the fifth-year option in his rookie contract Monday.
They had little choice.
Top executive Tom Coughlin, general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone would have been sending mixed signals to Bortles and teammates had they chose to decline the option by the deadline Wednesday. After all, the Jaguars are fully committed to Bortles for next season after deciding not to bring in another QB during free agency or in the draft.
So they needed to pick up the option, which could pay Bortles more than $19 million in 2018. If not, it would be a public sign of uncertainty at the all-important position.
''This is a smart business decision for the team for several reasons,'' Coughlin said. ''It makes sense for us going forward, and it's good for Blake and for the Jaguars.''
The 2018 option is guaranteed for injury only, so the Jaguars could decide to cut Bortles if he struggles again in 2017. If Bortles plays well and looks like a long-term solution, the Jaguars would work on an extension to keep Bortles under contract beyond 2018. If not, they'll be in the market for a quarterback in next year's QB-rich draft.
For now, though, they are all in on Bortles. The former UCF standout threw for 3,905 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, in his third season. It was a step back after throwing for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. He has been sacked a whopping 140 times in three years and has the most turnovers (63) of any player during that span.
The Jaguars decided that Bortles needed more help around him, so they drafted bruising LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick, chose massive Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson in the second round (No. 34) and added speedy Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook in the fourth (No. 110). They also picked up Miami fullback Marquez Williams with their final pick (No. 240) and made a trade with the Miami Dolphins for left tackle Branden Albert in March. Although Albert is skipping voluntary workouts in an attempt to get Jacksonville to rework his contract, he remains an integral part of the plan for next season.
Bortles, meanwhile, returned to California in March to work on his mechanics in hopes of improving his accuracy and efficiency. He still needs to make better pre-snap reads and post-snap decisions, something the Jaguars will address during organized team activities that begin later this month.
''He came in, he's lean, he's in shape, it seems like he's ready to go,'' Marrone said. ''I'm excited to see him on the field and see him out there throwing.''
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