With so many teams searching for a new quarterback, rumors have swirled surrounding Las Vegas Raiders backup quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The former Oregon quarterback performed well in his lone significant action from last season and could likely start for a few NFL franchises this upcoming season, but Las Vegas is not one of them. The Raiders have turned away offers for starting quarterback Derek Carr and plan to stick by the Fresno State product.
But will Las Vegas trade Mariota? They will certainly try, but his contract makes it more plausible he just gets cut instead. Here's why.
Last offseason, Mariota agreed to a two-year, $17.6 million deal with Las Vegas that had a first-year guarantee of $7.5 million with some incentives for playing time.
Per the details of his contract, Mariota’s cap number will be just above $10.7 million in 2021. That's an expensive rate for a backup quarterback, but his salary will nearly double if he reaches certain incentives. Should Mariota play over 60 percent of snaps in 12 games next season, the quarterback will earn an additional $7.85 million. Then for each victory Mariota leads his team to, he will earn an extra $156,250 with maximum win earnings of $1.8 million. Then, the incentives continue if Mariota makes the postseason. The 27-year-old will earn $250,000 for every postseason win, $1 million for making the Super Bowl, and $2 million for winning the title.
With Mariota being a below-average NFL starter, the appeal to having him as your quarterback would be paying a lower price tag to surround him with better talent. That goes out the window if you make him the starter on his current contract.
Should he play in 60% of snaps next season, Mariota's salary would have been the 18th highest-paid player at his position last season at $18.55 million. While possible Mariota could be the 18th-best quarterback in the NFL next season, it seems unlikely.
Then, the Raiders are in need of cap space to make a run at the AFC postseason in 2021. Jon Gruden is entering his fourth season as Raiders head coach and will want to compete sooner than later. That will involve using cap space to sign veterans that will help Las vegas win games immediately.
Cutting Mariota would give the Raiders $10.7 million of extra cap space if cut by June 1st. That's enough to get a solid defensive starter, at least. Don't forget due to the lower cap this season, players expect to take shorter, cheaper one-year deals to get back on the market in 2022.
"The more work you do on the player, it kind of leads you to where it's gonna go," Mike Lombardi said on the Pat McAfee Show. "You just basically know that the Raiders basically have to cut this kid because they can't carry $10 million."
Expect him on the open market sooner than later.