The Jacksonville Jaguars may have just paid $19 milllion for surgery on Blake Bortles’ wrist.
That’s not an indictment of the spiraling cost of health care, but rather a loophole in the quarterback’s contract.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter cited league sources as saying Bortles underwent surgery on his right wrist Friday for a condition that bothered him all season.
Bortles is believed to have injured the wrist in December 2016. The team elected to treat the injury with a series of shots during last year’s offseason, but as that treatment became less effective, surgery was the only other option to fix the problem.
Schefter said the surgery repaired a small tear and full recovery is expected.
Surgery on any quarterback’s throwing wrist is noteworthy, but it’s especially noteworthy when it comes a little more than a month before a team must make a decision on the quarterback’s contract for next season.
Jacksonville has until March 14 — the start of the NFL’s 2018 business year — to exercise or decline its option on Bortles’ contract.
But under the terms of Bortles’ contract, the $19 million is guaranteed only if Bortles is injured. In other words, if he can’t pass a physical in March, he would be guaranteed the $19 million even if the Jaguars didn’t want to keep him on the roster.
It’s a stange quirk in a league where injuries usually negate any chance of a player receiving a guaranteed contract.
Bortles has had an inconsistent four seasons with Jacksonville since they drafted him out of Central Florida, but he helped guide the team all the way to the AFC championship game this season, and within a touchdown of a trip to the Super Bowl.
Bortles threw for 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 60.2 completion percentage during the regular season, in which Jacksonville went 10-6. His passer rating was 84.7.
In the playoffs, Bortles threw three touchdowns passes and no interceptions, and completed 57.6 percent of his passes with a 91.0 passer rating.
Bortles missed only 23 of the team’s snaps on offense all season, but none was because of the nagging wrist injury. He missed the final nine snaps of the 44-7 win over Baltimore in Week 3 and the final 14 snaps of the 45-7 win over Houston in Week 15.
There’s no reason to believe Bortles is doing anything nefarious to receive his money. He had the surgery less than a week after the Jags were eliminated from the playoffs, and the team knew surgery was inevitable.
If he really was trying to do something unethical, he could have delayed the surgery to guarantee he would not be healthy by the time the team option was due.
And in all likelihood, the team would have picked up his option for next season anyway considering how far the Jags went this year.
But in the cold, hard world of the NFL, it isn’t often that a injury improves the chances of a player receiving a big payday.
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