A little more than a year ago, he was joking about how nice it would be to sign a $100 million contract extension as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had recently done. On Thursday, it was Oakland's Derek Carr, drafted 33 spots behind Bortles in 2014, signing a huge contract, while Bortles is fighting to convince management -- and his teammates -- that he deserves to be the Jaguars' starter beyond 2017.
Bortles had come off a breakout season in 2015, setting single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35). Despite the perception that most of his yards and TDs came during garbage time, when the Jaguars were trailing big, only 13 of his scoring passes came with Jacksonville trailing by double digits. He did turn the ball over too much (18 interceptions, five fumbles), and cutting down on those was going to be his main focus heading into 2016.
But Bortles regressed last season. He completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns with 16 interceptions; three of those picks were returned for touchdowns, giving him 11 in his career. Bortles also suffered a Grade 1 sprained right AC joint midway through the season, aggravated that five weeks later, and also dealt with painful tendinitis in his right wrist.
Bortles’ mechanics were a mess, too. His footwork got sloppy and his delivery was out of whack. He brought the ball below his waist and way behind his body during his windup, which increased the amount of time between his decision to throw and his release. Things got so bad he brought in personal throwing coach Adam Dedeaux, who works with Tom House at 3DQB in California, midway through the season.
The Jaguars did pick up Bortles' fifth-year option, which would pay him roughly $20 million in 2018, but that's guaranteed for injury only so it's really not much of a commitment. If Bortles struggles early in 2017 and turns the ball over at the same rate he has in his first three seasons (1.4 per game), the Jaguars can put him on the bench to avoid the chance he gets injured, then cut him after the season and not owe him any money.
Carr has been significantly better than Bortles in their three NFL seasons, throwing 12 more touchdown passes (81 to 69) and 20 fewer interceptions (31 to 51). He has also won twice as many games (22 to 11) -- partly because he has been the beneficiary of the Raiders' good drafting and work in free agency -- and led Oakland to the playoffs last season. Had he not suffered a broken leg in Week 16, the Raiders would likely have been able to manage more than the 203 yards they put up without him in a 27-14 loss to Houston in an AFC wild-card game.
Carr is clearly the Raiders' franchise quarterback and that's why they rewarded him with a five-year, $125 million contract this week.
Bortles, meanwhile, has turned the ball over more than any other player (63), thrown the second-most interceptions, and ranks 32nd in passer rating over the past three seasons. If he doesn't change those things, he'll be negotiating a new contract next spring with another team.