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2019 NFL free agency: Should the Patriots be interested when the Jaguars release QB Blake Bortles?

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Is this a terrible question?

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles to a 4-year contract worth $88 million, with “upside to $102 million”, and $50.1 million guaranteed, per NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo, MMQB’s Albert Breer, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

That’s a lot of money for the Super Bowl LII MVP, who will certainly have high expectations, but this article isn’t about Foles.

This is about Blake Bortles, the Jaguars oft-embattled quarterback who Rapoport reports will be released once the ink is dry.

The 5-year veteran Bortles turns 27 years old in a month and has racked up an extremely sub-mediocre career. He’s started 73 games, completed 59.3% of his passes, thrown 103 touchdowns against 75 interceptions, and has a career passer rating of 80.6- the second-worst in the NFL over that span of time (min. 1000 attempts, edging out only Brock Osweiler).

Bortles has not been without promise, at points, as he’s posted 52/81 (64.2%) for 669 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception for a passer rating of 105.4 in his past two games against the Patriots, including the 2017 AFC Championship Game. He threw an impressive 35 touchdown passes in 2015 and looked serviceable at times in 2017 with a simplified offense. He’s mobile, with 1,775 career rushing yards,

But while he appears to gain superpowers against New England, Bortles has looked fairly lost for much of his career. He’s been benched multiple times for his poor play and makes terrible decisions with the football, fumbling it a ghastly 46 times (trails only Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson over the past five years). The Jaguars offense looked so inept at times that it became painful to watch.

So what’s the deal with Bortles? Should the Patriots be interested in the former 3rd overall pick?

I think the answer should be, hey why not?

The Patriots were interested in Bortles in the 2014 NFL Draft, to the point where they reportedly would have selected him over Jimmy Garoppolo had the two been on the board at the same time. And while the two players have gone in completely different directions, perhaps the Patriots might still believe Bortles can turn his career around.

Bortles has gone through a handful of offensive coordinators in his short time in the league, going from Jedd Fisch in his rookie year, to Greg Olson in his second- and third-years (fired midway through the 2016 season), to Nathaniel Hackett in his fourth- and fifth-years. It should be noted that those three coordinators have combined to finish in the bottom half of league offenses in 15 of their 18 seasons as coordinator. That’s a terrible track record- but Bortles was quarterback in 2 of those 3 seasons where they boasted above-average offenses.

Maybe Bortles could be serviceable in a good situation with good coaches? Maybe?

But beyond his potential, uh, potential on the field, Bortles would also make an intriguing investment from a contract standpoint. $6.5 million of Bortles’ 2019 contract is guaranteed with offsets, which means that the Jaguars are on the hook for up to $6.5 million of Bortles’ contract in 2019.

So if the Patriots were to hand Bortles the veteran minimum of $805,000, the Jaguars would still be paying Bortles $5.7 million. That gives Bortles more incentive to sign some place where he thinks would be a good fit for his long-term career than to sign for whatever contract is first available. So why not come to the Patriots on a cheap deal?

The Patriots have a back-up quarterback in Brian Hoyer who already knows the New England offense and there are plenty of young quarterbacks in the draft that could be just as interesting, if not more so, than Bortles.

But just because Bortles hasn’t been consistent in his five years in the NFL doesn’t mean that he should automatically be dismissed. Bill Belichick loves signing back-ups with starting experience- and if Bortles would be interested in signing for the veteran’s minimum, then the Patriots should absolutely have a conversation, even if the ultimate answer is “no.”