No, a surfing clause isn’t keeping the Titans from signing quarterback Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. The real reason is far less interesting.
As expected, it’s the question of whether Mariota’s contract will include offset language for the fully-guaranteed payments to be made from 2015 through 2018. The Titans want to have the ability to get credit for any money Mariota owns elsewhere, if Mariota is cut at any point during his first four NFL seasons. Mariota wants to have the ability to keep his guaranteed money from the Titans, and to keep whatever he earns from another team.
And so the two sides are starting at each other, waiting for one of them to blink. The Titans think/assume/hope that Mariota will cave before missing a training-camp practice, or possibly after missing a handful of them. Mariota thinks/assumes/hopes that the Titans will cave, given that they need their potential franchise quarterback to become a franchise quarterback as quickly as possible.
It’s odd that it’s even a fight. But it’s a fight because the first overall pick, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, has offset language in his contract and the third overall pick, Jaguars linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., does not have offset language in his contract.
If Mariota performs so poorly that he’s cut before he finishes his contract, the Titans will have problems far bigger than whether they can get credit for whatever Mariota earns elsewhere.
So why fight it? Maybe the Titans are simply trying to be tough. Maybe the Titans think the league wants teams to include offset language in rookie deals. (If so, the Jaguars and Rams didn’t get the memo.)
Regardless, a very minimal issue threatens to become a very major problem, if neither Mariota nor the Titans blink by the start of training camp, or at the latest not long after it opens.