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After playoff run, what do Jaguars do with Blake Bortles now?

Olivia Stacey

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars’ remarkable season is in the books, however the debate over Blake Bortles seems to only be beginning.

In May, the Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on Bortles’ rookie contract. At the time it was a controversial decision. Bortles struggled with inaccuracy, timing and decision-making in his first three seasons. With just 11 wins in three seasons as a starter, many questioned if he had the potential to develop into a franchise quarterback?

As the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Bortles hadn’t lived up to expectations. Neither had the Jaguars, who were often the laughing stock of the NFL.

But things changed this season. Bortles completed 60.2 percent of his passes for the first time while throwing for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns. He also cut down his interceptions to 13.

Bortles’ improvement backed by the Jaguars’ dominant defense, and Leonard Fournette’s running game, led Jacksonville to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season.

Sure, Bortles only threw for 87 yards against the Bills, but he rushed for 88, and won the game with his legs and a fourth-down touchdown pass. The 25-year-old quarterback did enough to keep the Jaguars in it, but the performance left many analysts and fans wondering if he would hold his team back from advancing any farther.

Questions about Bortles future with the team began to resurface.

In their stunning upset against Pittsburgh, Bortles did exactly what he needed to do, leading a pair of critical, fourth-quarter drives to advance his team to an AFC title game. At the end of the day, he completed 14 of 26 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 35 yards on five carries.

Bortles followed that up with a brilliant first half against the Patriots. He finished with impressive stats — a 293-yard game with a touchdown pass and no interceptions against the defensing Super Bowl champions. At one point he completed 12 straight passes and 17 of his first 21 throws overall.

For as well as he played, he wasn’t able to lead a scoring drive on the last four Jacksonville possessions, when the game was on the line.

Once again, it led to a fury of questions. Will it be Bortles or someone else under center for the Jaguars in 2018?

Bortles told the media Monday afternoon in the Jaguars locker room that he wants to be that guy. “I’ve enjoyed my four years here and Jacksonville, and I love to play here as long as they will have me.” Bortles continued, “What they (management) do is out of my control.”

If the team doesn’t offer a better long term deal, Bortles’ salary for 2018 will be approximately $19.1 million (the average of the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks) for the one year deal.

While Bortles performed well in the AFC Championship Game, critics say he’s still extremely inconsistent, which is why the Jaguars should look at their options. Names like Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor have been thrown around by some football analysts because of their ability to protect the ball.

However, others feel Bortles has earned the job. After all, the much-improved quarterback won a pair of playoff games. His return would also give the team another opportunity to build off a thrilling 2017 season.

Jacksonville is in a quandary and Bortles is still a bit of an enigma.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.

Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:

This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.

Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″

It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:

However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially,  put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?

Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.

If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.

Caldwell was a specifically asked about Dareus’ status and gave a quick answer is part of his Q&A session:

Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.

Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.

Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.

However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.

Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.

However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.

Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.

As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?

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