Having delayed the inevitable long enough, the Jacksonville Jaguars placed quarterback Byron Leftwich on the injured reserve list Friday, officially ending his 2006 season and leaving open to speculation his future with the franchise.
Leftwich, 26, started the first six games of the season, his final appearance coming in an Oct. 22 defeat at Houston, a game that culminated a week in which he experienced discomfort in his left ankle. Leftwich was replaced the following week by David Garrard, and the fifth-year veteran has started the past five games.
Garrard is 3-2 in those starts and has completed 72 of 127 passes for 859 yards, with five touchdown passes and four interceptions.
Leftwich traveled to Birmingham, Ala., last month for a second opinion on his balky ankle from Dr. James Andrews, and the renowned orthopedist apprised the four-year veteran signal-caller that there was debris and bone spurs in the joint. Andrews recommended to Leftwich that he rest the ankle for 7-10 days, and then have it re-evaluated. Leftwich then had surgery on Nov. 21 to clean out the ankle.
While the Jaguars did not immediately place Leftwich on injured reserve, it was expected he would not play again in 2006 and would eventually be moved there.
The Jaguars' first-round choice in the 2003 draft, and essentially the face of the franchise since ascending to the starting role just three games into his rookie season, Leftwich should be fully rehabilitated well in advance of 2007 training camp.
Leftwich fractured his left ankle in 2005, and missed the final five games of the season, then returned to the starting lineup in a wild card-round playoff loss at New England. His current ankle problems are unrelated, Jacksonville officials have said, to last season's fracture. Garrard was 4-1 while replacing Leftwich in the lineup in 2005 and now will attempt to lead the team into the playoffs.
Complicating matters for the future is that Leftwich will enter the final season of his original rookie contract in 2007, and has a base salary of $5.2 million, and a salary cap figure that could be exorbitant for the Jaguars to carry if the former Marshall star is not the starter. One of the NFL's most amenable players, and popular with his teammates, Leftwich has said that he wants to remain in Jacksonville.
But there is a feeling that some Jaguars officials don't believe Leftwich, who was 3-3 as a starter this year before the ankle injury and is 24-20 for his career, is the long-term answer at the position. And there are some close to Leftwich who feel a change of scenery might be in his best interests, especially with what has transpired this season.
To fill Leftwich's spot on the roster, the Jaguars elevated defensive back David Richardson from their practice squad.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.