JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars’ quarterback position in this look at the ’19 offseason
2018 starters: Blake Bortles (12), Cody Kessler (4).
Others: Tanner Lee.
2018 at a glance: Bortles started the first 11 games and regular-season finale, with Kessler starting Weeks 13-16. Bortles completed 243 of 403 passes for 2,716 yards and 13 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and Kessler completed 85 of 131 passes for 709 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
Offseason storyline: This position likely will change dramatically. While Bortles – the starter since 2014 and the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft – is signed through 2020, many expect he could be released with the Jaguars resetting the position through free agency and/or the draft. The future of Kessler – acquired in a 2018 offseason trade from Cleveland – also is uncertain; he and Bortles each struggled in 2018 with an offensive line and skill positions hurt by injuries throughout the season.
Free agents as of March 13: None.
Oehser analysis: The question isn’t whether the Jaguars’ quarterback situation will look different next season as much as how the team will approach what are expected to be major changes. The guess here is Bortles could be released around the March 13 start of free agency and the new league year. If so, the reality is any one of at least eight-to-10 projected rookies/veterans could be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback next season. The most-discussed scenario among observers in recent weeks has been signing Nick Foles of Philadelphia as a free agent – or trading with the Eagles for Foles if the Eagles use the NFL’s franchise tag on him. Will he justify what likely will be a high price? Will the team be willing to trade draft equity and spend major free-agent capital on Foles? Those are major unknowns that could decide the rest of the offseason – and a lot about the offense moving forward. Another option: a veteran quarterback as a “bridge” player until a drafted quarterback is ready. If that’s the route, a player such as Joe Flacco of Baltimore, Teddy Bridgewater of New Orleans, Tyrod Taylor of Cleveland or Ryan Tannehill of Miami could make sense. In that scenario, it seems likely the Jaguars would use the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft on a quarterback; when you’re selecting in the Top 10 and need a quarterback, it can be difficult to pass on the position. The Jaguars’ options then become Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State, Daniel Jones of Duke, Drew Lock or Missouri – or perhaps Kyler Murray of Oklahoma. Many believe the Jaguars would need to trade up in Round 1 to get Haskins. Would they do so? Would they like Jones, Lock or Murray enough to pass on Haskins. All of this is speculation, and the unknowns and options make this the most fascinating and critical issue of this or any other recent Jaguars offseason.
Sexton analysis: This is the fulcrum upon which everything else that happens around the Jaguars this offseason will shift. Options abound from the high-priced veteran to the highly-drafted rookie; the possibility exists that both could be on the to-do list. I can’t predict who or what or when other than to say the Jaguars process this time around will involve three men who weren’t in Jacksonville when General Manager Dave Caldwell selected Bortles third overall pick in 2014. I remember sitting in then- Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s office back when it was headquartered in a trailer and reading the names on a stack of tape on his desk. From that collection of guys whose names no one would remember, he selected Mark Brunell to be his first franchise quarterback and we all know how that turned out. Coughlin’s resume – from Doug Flutie at Boston College to a pair of Super Bowl championships with Eli Manning in New York – suggests he’s going to have plenty to say about the choice. Mix in current Head Coach Doug Marrone – who once worked with Drew Brees in New Orleans – and new coordinator John DeFilippo, whose time as quarterbacks coach with Carson Wentz and Foles in Philadelphia was rather productive, and you have plenty of eyes on the most important selection the franchise has made in years.