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Blake Bortles extension has Cleveland Browns implications

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The Jacksonville Jaguars gave quarterback Blake Bortles a three-year contract extension on Monday; here’s what it means for the Browns as they continue their QB hunt.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave a three-year contract extension to quarterback Blake Bortles. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is worth a total of $54 million, with $26.5 million in guarantees.

The deal solves a salary cap issue the Jaguars were staring down, having chosen to exercise Bortles’ fifth-year option last offseason. In 2018, Bortles was set to cost over $19 million against the cap, an amount that was fully guaranteed for injury. With Bortles having recently undergone wrist surgery, he would have been unable to pass a physical by March 14, the date in which the salary would be officially on the books. By extending him on a modest deal, the Jaguars were able to save $9 million this year while also not inextricably tying themselves to a quarterback who, for most of his career, was not considered among the best in the league.

Schefter also noted that the extension means “Jacksonville [is] out of the QB market.” And while that’s not necessarily the case—the Jaguars could certainly target the position in April’s draft to serve as Bortles insurance (and potentially as his successor)—it does seem to appear Jacksonville won’t be major players in free agency when it comes to targeting quarterbacks.

That’s great news for the cash-rich Browns, who are still trying to solve their longstanding quarterback issues and may do so via a combination of free agency and the draft. Jacksonville’s decision about Bortles means one less suitor for the services of Washington’s Kirk Cousins, who is expected to be the most well-paid of the free agents at the position.

And even if Cousins isn’t in the Browns’ plans, they also have a better shot of landing other expected free agents at the position, such as one of the Minnesota Vikings’ trio of Case Keenum, Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater or A.J. McCarron, whom the Browns had trade interest in just months ago. There is also less of a threat of the Jaguars wanting to trade up in April’s draft to snag another quarterback, meaning that the Browns don’t necessarily have to spring for the position with the No. 1 overall pick and could wait until they pick again at No. 4.

While the Bortles extension does not eliminate all obstacles to the Browns’ pursuit of Cousins or other free agent quarterbacks, it does knock one off of the list. Jacksonville has provided enough of a vote of confidence in Bortles that they won’t be among those seeking a free-agency upgrade at the quarterback position.