Tuesday evening the Chiefs agreed to trade QB Alex Smith to the Redskins in exchange for a third round pick and ascending CB Kendall Fuller. A HUGE slap in the face for Kirk Cousins, considering he's been wanting a longer term deal for years. But Cousins will ultimately benefit from this move as he will hit the open market and there will no doubt be a bidding war for his services.
While this move took Alex Smith off the market for teams interested in adding a veteran QB, it effectively added Kirk Cousins to the free agent pool.
One faction of Jaguars fans are dead set on the Jaguars going after Cousins to replace Blake Bortles.
Another faction would prefer to see the Jaguars stick with Blake for at least another year.
Both sides defend their stances with a fervor not felt in these parts for years.
So, I'm going to break down the debate, by the numbers.
$$$: Every season in the NFL hundreds of roster decisions come to down to one thing - MONEY. Despite what you might hear on local radio stations the Jaguars aren't exactly strapped for cash. Still, in order to keep some of this franchises recent draft picks around for an extended period of time the Jaguars need to be frugal and smart with their cap. If the Jaguars elect to keep Bortles around all they'll owe him is $19 million this season, which is far from elite money for a QB. On the other side of things Kirk Cousins will likely become the highest paid QB in football, or damn close to it, and there's no guarantee that the Jaguars would win the bidding war that is sure to come. That type of contract could prevent the Jaguars from bringing back some stars in the near future, but won't completely handicap the team. Cousins has said he would prioritize winning over money in free agency, but we've heard that song and dance before. Blake Bortles is the much more affordable option.
TD-INT Ratio: There's really no comparison between Bortles and Cousins when it comes to TD-INT ratio. Since becoming a full time starter in 2015 Kirk Cousins has thrown 81 TDs to 36 INTs, a ratio of 2.25/1. For Bortles the ratio isn't nearly as impressive. He's thrown 79 TDs to 47 INTs in the same time period, for a ratio of 1.68/1. In terms of scoring points and not turning the ball over Cousins has been far more impressive.
Completion %: Another notch in the cap for the Kirk Cousins camp. Kirk has completed over 65% of his passes throughout his career. Bortles on the other hand has completed just under 60% of his passes. Most feel that to be playing at a competent level a QB needs to, at the very least, eclipse the 60% mark in terms of completions. Bortles did, however, complete 60% of his passes this season for the first time in his career, despite throwing to Marqise Lee, who led the league in drops. Marcedes Lewis and Keelan Cole were also among the league leaders in drops this season. Cousins actually had his worst season in terms of completion % since becoming a starter. He regressed down to 64% in 2017. There's no question that at this point in their two respective careers Cousins is a more accurate passer, but the gap might not be as wide as you think.
Age: This is a small win for Bortles. Cousins will be 30 years old by the time the 2018 season begins. Bortles will be just 26. While the two QBs have spent nearly the same amount of time as starters in this league Cousins is four years Bortles senior. Unlike Cousins, who was allowed to sit and learn for much of his first three seasons, Bortles was thrown into the fire early on in his rookie season, when the Jaguars roster was far from competitive. It's possible that Kirk Cousins has played his best football, but it's also possible that Cousins could play 5-7 more years at a highly effective level. QBs these days are playing well into their mid to late 30s, especially those that didn't get much wear and tear in their first few years. On the other hand Bortles likely hasn't played his best football yet and will be entering his prime over the next couple of seasons.
Winning: Football is the ultimate team game, but QBs do get judged based upon their ability to win games. Since 2015 Bortles led teams have gone 18-30. Not all of that has been Blake's fault, but he deserves his fair share of the blame for a lot of the Jaguars losses in 2015 and 2016. But he was also a big part of the Jaguars winning 10 regular season games in 2017. Kirk Cousins led teams have won 29 games in the same time period, in large part thanks to Kirk Cousins arm. Cousins gets the nod when it comes to winning time.
Playoff Performance: Blake Bortles and Kirk Cousins have both been impressive in the playoffs. Surprisingly, Bortles has a bigger sample size in the playoffs. He's started three games and won two of them. In two of the Jaguars three playoff games Bortles was impressive as a passer and he has yet to throw an INT in the playoffs. Cousins on the other hand has only started one playoff game. In a loss to the Packers in the 2015 wild card round Cousins threw for over 300 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs. Bortles get's the nod here, but I have a feeling this isn't the end of the debate when it comes to playoff performance.
At this point it's pretty clear that Cousins is a much better option in terms of play on the field. But is he worth (somewhat) mortgaging your team's future? Will adding Cousins get the Jaguars over the top and allow them to beat teams like New England in the playoffs?
I will be comfortable either way. If the Jaguars choose to build around Blake Bortles and allocate the resources it would take to sign Alex Smith to improving the rest of the offense I would stand behind that decision. An ascending QB coming off two playoff wins that came just a couple of plays short of beating the GOAT is a good option, especially if the Jaguars make improvements around him this offseason.
I would also be comfortable adding Kirk Cousins, who at this point is a top ten QB in the NFL. He's vastly better than Blake Bortles in terms of accuracy and TD-INT ratio. He has a penchant for making explosive plays -- he completed 61 passes of 20+ yards this season, where as Blake completed just 41 passes of the sort -- and is a fiery player.
If I were Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin I would join the bidding war for Kirk Cousins. With Cousins efficiency the Jaguars likely would have won two-three more regular season games in 2017 and could have competed for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Jaguars goal in 2018 should be to win the ultimate prize and Kirk Cousins likely gives the Jaguars a better chance to do so than Blake Bortles.
All this debate is fascinating, but what Jaguars fans are missing is the fact that the Jaguars QB situation, regardless of whether it's Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, or any of the Minnesota QBs, is so far better than what it was at this time last year.
Where do you stand on this debate? Let us know in the comments below.
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