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As Mariota, Titans haggle over offsets, history says it’s a non-issue

Marcus Mariota


The Titans and first-round draft pick Marcus Mariota haven’t come to terms because they haven’t agreed on whether his rookie contract will include offset language. Which is an odd issue to become a stumbling block, because history says it will almost certainly be a non-issue.

Offsets only come into play if a player gets cut by the team that drafts him and then signs on with a new team. Although first-round picks’ contracts are guaranteed, if there are offsets in his contract, the team that drafted the player can deduct whatever he makes with his new team from the money the team that drafted him has to pay. In other words, if Mariota’s rookie contract calls for him to make a base salary of $615,000 in 2017, he’s guaranteed to get paid that money even if the Titans cut him after the 2016 season. But if some other team signs Mariota and pays him $615,000 in 2017, the Titans don’t have to pay it to him. If there are no offsets in the contract, Mariota can “double dip” and collect $615,000 from both the Titans and his new team.

Here’s why it doesn’t matter: Mariota would have to be so bad that the Titans cut him in the next four years, but not so bad that some other team wouldn’t sign him. and that almost never happens. In the 21st Century, only one quarterback has been drafted in the first round, cut in his first four years, and then signed with another team. That quarterback was Brandon Weeden, who lasted two years in Cleveland and then signed in Dallas after the Browns cut him.

Other first-round quarterbacks have been cut in the first four years but not signed anywhere else (JaMarcus Russell), or been traded away by the teams that drafted them (Blaine Gabbert, Tim Tebow). But only Weeden has been cut and then signed elsewhere, which means Weeden is the only first-round quarterback for whom offsets have been an issue.

The Browns did convince Weeden to agree to offsets in his rookie contract, which meant they were allowed to deduct the league-minimum salary he earned from the Cowboys last year from the amount Cleveland still owed him on his rookie deal. The Titans want Mariota to agree to offsets so that if they cut him and he’s playing for some other team in 2017, they can also deduct his salary with his new team from the amount he gets paid by Tennessee.

But if Mariota is as bad for the Titans as Weeden was for the Browns, the Titans will have bigger problems than saving a few hundred thousand dollars.