JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are bringing back quarterback Chad Henne -- and making him the starter.
Henne and the team agreed to a two-year contract worth $8 million Friday, keeping him from hitting the free-agent market.
Henne's deal includes $4.5 million guaranteed in the first year and comes four days before the beginning of free agency and one day before Henne could have started negotiating with other teams.
Coach Gus Bradley made it clear on a conference call that the plan is for Henne to be the starter, even if the general manager Dave Caldwell selects a quarterback with the No. 3 pick in the May draft.
"That's our plan," Bradley said. "If we did go that route, where we did bring in a quarterback at No. 3, we'd like to create an environment where that quarterback could come in and just put all of his focus on preparation and learning without the distractions that come with it. That would be the ideal environment.
"We feel good about that ... And if we draft a guy at No. 3, if that should happen, he could learn and just see how he progresses. Now, if we did do that and he did really well, we're going to be open to it. We're obviously going to play the best guy. We want to create an environment like that for him to compete in, and I think that would give him the best opportunity to get better."
Henne signed a two-year deal worth $6.75 million with Jacksonville in 2012. He started 13 games last season and threw for 3,421 yards, with 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, after replacing benched starter Blaine Gabbert.
His return could mean the end of Gabbert's tenure in Jacksonville, especially if the team drafts another quarterback.
Gabbert is in the final year of his contract, and although his 2014 salary is guaranteed, the Jaguars are unlikely to keep Gabbert as the third-stringer.
"It all depends on what we do in the draft," Bradley said. "Just want to have flexibility in the draft to make sure that we can draft the best players at the position where we're drafting and not to be handcuffed. Now, whether we decide to draft a quarterback in the draft or not, obviously that's something that Dave and I are looking at. I haven't had any of those discussions like that with Blaine. I told him right after the season, come in, compete and let's go. Let's see what happens."
Henne is 5-14 as a starter in two seasons with the Jaguars.
A second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2008, Henne said he preferred to stay in Jacksonville.
"From my standpoint, we did want to talk to a couple of teams," Henne said. "But we figured if we got what we wanted -- and Jacksonville was my No. 1 choice -- that we would go ahead and sign with Jacksonville and not even venture out and talk with other teams. It was my No. 1 choice and I wanted to be there, so it all worked out for both sides."
The decision keeps Henne from having to learn a new offence for the fourth consecutive season. He will team with offensive co-ordinator Jedd Fisch in hopes of improving one of the worst passing attacks in the league.
Henne also knows the team could draft a quarterback who could push him for the starting spot.
"This being my seventh year, there are no surprises," Henne said. "If they bring in a quarterback at No. 3, that's just only another guy in there that's going to try to compete and make me better and hopefully I can make him better. What it really all comes down to is helping the team win, and I've always been a team player. I'm going to bust my butt to be the starter and hopefully be the starter there for a long time. Whatever they do, that's their decision. My job is to help lead this team and be the starter Day 1."