Jacksonville Jaguars should be cautious not to let QB Chad Henne outplay his role

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On Friday afternoon, it was announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars had locked up incumbent quarterback Chad Henne for an additional two years, in a contract that boasts fairly decent figures, ultimately satisfying both parties.

The terms of the contract are as follows: two years, $8 million, with $4.5 million guaranteed. Additionally, Henne has a base salary of $1.5 million in 2014, with a $3 million roster bonus; 2015 – $3.5 million base.

It’s safe to say that general manager David Caldwell did not want Henne to test the market in a year that features a relatively weak free agent quarterback class, with Henne being viewed as arguably the best signal caller of the bunch. Given that Henne is familiar with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s system, isn’t terrible, and could be a good “stop-gap” guy while a fresh, young lion gets proper grooming as a rookie, it made sense for the front office to secure the former second round selection, even though you know what you’re getting out of him – which isn’t much.

During Henne’s time in Jacksonville, the former Michigan standout has started 19 of 25 contests, while amassing just over 5,300 yards, with a 24:25 touchdown-interception ratio.

Not great statistics, while not horrible either. I’d argue that Henne isn’t even as good as these mediocre figures suggest, given much of his production – specifically last year – was garnered late in games when the outcome was virtually already decided. Garbage-time stats, if you will. But I digress.

So what does this mean for the Jaguars long-term and how does it impact the draft? Well, if you were asking me, I’d say it has very little effect on what the team does in the near future, but then again, I have very few connections to the big-wigs within Jacksonville’s front office.

Ryan O’Halloran, Florida Times-Union beat writer for the team, suggests that re-signing Henne does impact what the team does in the draft, specifically in the first few rounds. He went as far as indicating that the team will not draft a quarterback in the first round, via his Twitter account.

That may be possible, but I’d have a hard time believing Caldwell would pass on a guy like Teddy Bridgewater if still available at pick three. Bridgewater is a very cerebral quarterback who makes great decisions with the football, has mobility to go along with remarkable pocket presence, and, most importantly, is devastatingly accurate. Call me naïve, but there’s no way Jacksonville passes on a young gunner like Bridgewater because they have the game-manager that is Henne locked up for two additional seasons. This team has lacked competence behind center for far too long. Nobody is going to convince me otherwise.

I can’t help but refer back to an interview Caldwell did with Tim Graham of The Buffalo News in December of last year.

Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

As a general manager, you’re going to be judged first on your wins and losses. But how you get there are your two most important decisions, your head coach and your quarterback. I feel like we’re one for one.

The latter comment was in reference to head coach Gus Bradley, but he seemed to give no indication that he has his quarterback of the future on the roster. Given that, statistically, the odds of landing a franchise quarterback beyond round one are meager, I seriously doubt he’d pass on the most NFL ready guy solely because Henne is on the roster.

Henne should have not hold that much value.

Henne is what he is, which is, well, just a guy. He will do whatever is asked of him, will make head-scratching throws per game, but will rarely be the sole reason the team loses a game. He is the epitome of “quarterback purgatory,” and if you role with him as “the guy” for too long, that’s what you’re franchise will be defined as. It’s what Cincinnati will have to deal with if they commit to Andy Dalton beyond this year. It’s the same situation Minnesota will deal with if they stick with Christian Ponder. It’s what the Houston Texans would deal with if they stick with Matt Schaub (which they wont). Caldwell knows this.

A team will only go as far as their quarterback will take them, unless they flaunt an all-world defense, a la 2000 Baltimore, 2003 Tampa Bay, or 2013 Seattle, but those teams are the exception, not the rule.

The Jaguars could pass on a quarterback in round one for a guy in round two or three, which is understandable if they opt for South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney or Buffalo’s Khalil Mack. However, I am still of the opinion that, whoever they do draft at quarterback, whenever that may be, the said player will still get the start over Henne – if not at the beginning of the season, then surely at some point throughout the year.

Here’s a prediction you can take to Vegas: If Jacksonville sticks with Henne, and he, somehow, starts all 16, the team will win no more than five games in 2014.

Depending on who they draft, they could win several more than that. The ideal situation would be for a rookie to start immediately, stick with him through his inevitable bumps and bruises, and have Henne mentor him on the sidelines, clipboard in hand. The sit-and-learn concept serves as a luxury to the teams who can afford to do so, ie: successful ones. Jacksonville does not have that luxury. Whoever they draft in round one, or two, or three will become the starter at some point in 2014.

This franchise is ready for a fresh start at the quarterback position. While they Henne signing makes sense, it is not a long-term fixture; rather, a short-term band-aid.

Either way, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a team that is sailing in the right direction. It’s just a matter of how long it takes them to reach their destination.

Follow Matt on Twitter @bymattgonzales

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