The Raiders are adding a veteran quarterback to the roster, but he won’t be supplanting Derek Carr. He’ll be supporting and possibly competing with him down the road.
Marcus Mariota has agreed on a contract to join the Silver and Black, a league source confirmed on Monday night, after spending his first five NFL seasons in Tennessee.
NFL Network first reported the news. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.
Mariota was the Titans unquestioned starter from his rookie season until around the middle last year, when Ryan Tannehill took it and ran all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
Mariota wasn’t returning to Nashville -- Tannehill signed a monster extension on Sunday – but finds a home in Las Vegas with a head coach and general manager who loved him coming into the 2015 draft.
Both Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock were television analysts then, and lavished praise on an Oregon product who was eventually taken No. 2 overall. That was clear during Mariota’s episode of Gruden’s QB Camp series on ESPN. Mayock listed the Heisman Trophy winner as his top quarterback prospect back in 2015, during his long tenure as NFL Network’s preeminent draft analyst.
Carr’s also a big fan and has gotten to know Mariota in brief meetings over the years. In a strange twist, Carr and Mariota suffered broken legs on the same day in 2016.
Mariota will end up as a primary backup for Carr as it stands on Monday night. We can’t lock that pecking order down for sure, not with Tom Brady still an unrestricted free agent. National reporters have said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pushing hard for the six-time Super Bowl winner, with the L.A. Chargers also trying to woo him. If Brady’s willing to consider the Raiders, however, there’s a real chance Gruden and Mayock would make a starting quarterback switch.
Right now it’s Carr and Mariota, in that order. It’s a strong depth chart as is and could be supplemented by Nathan Peterman, who received an original-round RFA tender Monday, or a quarterback drafted next month.
Mariota’s career hasn’t gone according to plan, with a 29-32 record and a 1-1 mark in playoff games he started. That falls below expectations for his draft slot, but there’s talent, athleticism and smarts to produce a career renaissance working with Gruden. He’ll be the type of reclamation project Gruden enjoys, with real upside if Mariota can get on track. Let’s not forget that Mariota’s a playmaker at his best, a peak Gruden will try and evoke on a regular basis.
It’s not unthinkable Gruden could develop a set of plays to capitalize on Mariota’s athleticism even if Carr remains the unquestioned starter.
Mariota’s competitive enough to push for a starting spot but has the high character and football IQ to contribute as a No. 2.
[RELATED: NFL changes offseason schedule]
The Raiders also have a quality contingency plan should Carr falter at any point in the team’s first season in Las Vegas. It’s an ideal situation for the team and a player certainly looking to kickstart his career after losing a starting gig.
Per NFL rules particular to this offseason, Mariota and all other additions are prohibited from traveling to team facilities for meetings or physicals that formalize contracts. And, at this point, NFL offseason programs have been postponed indefinitely.