Before Marcus Mariota can become the Titans’ franchise quarterback, he’ll need to be officially employed by the franchise. Of the first seven picks in the 2015 draft, Mariota is the only one who remains unsigned.
Per a league source, the two sides intend to start working on his contract tomorrow.
The process, in theory, should be easy; the Buccaneers and quarterback Jameis Winston had a deal in place before the second round of the draft even began. But Winston and his agents willingly caved on the issue of offsets. Mariota may not.
It’s one of the few terms left for the top picks in the draft to negotiate. If the player with a fully-guaranteed deal is cut and signs with another team during the next four seasons, will the team that drafted him get credit for money earned elsewhere, or will the player get to double dip?
So far, only one player taken in top 10 has received a deal without offset language, which allows him to be paid twice. The problem for Mariota and the Titans is that the player without offsets in 2015 was taken one spot after Mariota — Jaguars linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. Last year, quarterback Blake Bortles received the same no-offset deal in the same slot, No. 3 overall.
The question moving forward becomes whether the Titans or Mariota will dig in on either side of the issue. From the perspective of the folks negotiating the contract for the team, the smart play would be to yield on the offset language in order to get the contract finalized quickly. If Mariota ends up being cut within the next four seasons, those responsible for drafting him won’t have to answer tough questions regarding the decision to dump the offset language; they will have already been fired.