The Jaguars have a critical offseason upcoming following their surprise trip to the AFC title game in New England last weekend.

Jacksonville is a team loaded with premium and very expensive defensive talent. And they have a decision to make at quarterback if they want to continue as AFC contenders: bring back Blake Bortles on his $19-million salary or venture into the quarterback market to find an upgrade?

The latter could get expensive. The former could be treacherous. Bortles has been waffling between average and putrid for most of his career. His play in the playoffs was promising, but his overall body of work questions its sustainability.

Kirk Cousins could command upwards of $25 million per season. Alex Smith, if traded from the Chiefs to pave the way for Patrick Mahomes, has a $20.6-million cap hit. Nick Foles could find himself in that same price range if he upsets the Patriots next weekend in the Super Bowl. If not, most of his body of work indicates he’s a career backup, not the guy who lit the Vikings on fire in the NFC title game.

The Jaguars are expected to have $17 million in cap space, according to, if Bortles is brought back (if not, they’ll have $36 million). Their next priority is the future of receiver Allen Robinson.

Robinson, of course, is a name 49ers fans have lusted over as a pending free agent. But he might never get there. Jacksonville could give him the franchise tag, paying him roughly $16.2 million for 2018, leaving them with minimal financial wiggle room and less than $1 million in cap space left.

If they don’t bring Bortles back and have to allocate more money to a new signal caller, the franchise tag for Robinson becomes a more complicated dilemma. The answer would be to make concessions elsewhere by releasing players to make everything fit – or signing Robinson to a long-term deal heavy in guarantees to keep his 2018 cap number down.

One potential cap casualty is receiver Allen Hurns ($7 million), who might not be a bad option for San Francisco if Robinson doesn’t hit the market. The guarantees from his contract are gone allowing Jacksonville to save his entire cap figure if released. Another is right tackle Jeremy Parnell ($5 million), who was one of the league’s 10 or 12 best at his position last season. Like Hurns, the guarantees in his deal are out. But that would mean leaving a big hole at a crucial position on the offensive line.

Complicating things further is Robinson’s health. He tore an ACL in the season opener last season. He vowed recently to pass a physical when he signs his next contract in the spring, but it remains to be seen when he would be available to play.

The Jaguars could certainly justify giving Robinson the tag by releasing players and replacing them with draft picks. Robinson has production on his resume worthy of the tag, notably his 14-touchdown, 1,400-yard season in 2015.

But that was two seasons ago. Robinson when fully in 2016 had a strong campaign (73 catches, 883 yards and six touchdowns) but not worth $16-million if isolated from the season prior.

It’s been posited that giving Robinson the tag is an easy decision given Jacksonville’s lack of play makers on offense. But bringing him back is far from a slam dunk given its current financial structure, particularly if Tom Coughlin tries to upgrade from Bortles.

Perhaps it’s more likely they retain Robinson if their quarterback is brought back as the cost-friendly option. But then Jacksonville would be wagering its future on Blake Bortles, which remains a scary proposition.

No matter how it turns out, the rest of the NFL, including the deep-pocketed 49ers, will be watching closely to see if Robinson hits the market.

About the Author: Insidethe49

Insidethe49 Site Staff

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