As we approach an intriguing offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a new wrinkle has been added into the situation surrounding the franchise's starting quarterback.
Blake Bortles underwent wrist surgery last week to fix an issue he dealt with during the entire 2017 season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the quarterback's situation.
The injury was in his right wrist, serving as part of his throwing hand. Bortles is expected to make a full recovery, Rapoport added.
ESPN first reported the news.
This injury makes Jacksonville's decision on Bortles all that much more interesting. The Jaguars picked up Bortles' $19 million option last May, with GM Dave Caldwell supporting such a decision by pointing out it would be an average salary for a starting quarterback in 2018. While that's true, the option's additional guarantee wasn't discussed.
If Bortles is on the roster on the first day of the new league year (March 14), his option becomes fully guaranteed. The option is also fully guaranteed for injury, making the possibility of Jacksonville cutting the quarterback for salary-cap relief in pursuit of a signal-caller that much more complicated.
Jacksonville is also not flush with cap space like it was in recent years. The Jaguars are projected to have just $16.5 million in space for 2018, per OverTheCap.com, which is much less than would be necessary to attract a perceived upgrade in someone like Kirk Cousins, or to pay Alex Smith (who's due $20.6 million) if acquired via trade.
Jacksonville could, of course, just keep Bortles and pay him the $19 million. After all, the quarterback led the Jaguars to within a late touchdown of the franchise's first AFC title.
Widely expected to be Jacksonville's downfall, Bortles was instead a significant reason for the Jaguars' playoff success. Statistically, Bortles posted a season in line with the majority of his career: 315-of-523 passing, 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also rushed 57 times for 322 yards and two touchdowns, and used those legs to earn much-needed yards in a 10-3 wild-card win over Buffalo.
He also led multiple scoring drives to stave off Pittsburgh in a Divisional Round shootout, proving his mettle in an adverse situation. We now know he did it while dealing with a prolonged wrist injury, making it that much more impressive (and surprising).
Armed with this knowledge, Jacksonville might already be set on another season of Bortles, a prove-it campaign for the quarterback and an important one for the future of the promising franchise. He'll have a healthy wrist for the journey, which is more than he could say in 2017.