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As Training Camp Nears, Titans Not Budging on Marcus Mariota’s Contract

Marcus Mariota

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft has yet to sign his rookie deal. This is something the NFL attempted to avoid by coming to terms on a rookie wage scale with the NFL Players Association during the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It’s also something that is much more convoluted than simple salary details.

The Tennessee Titans want Marcus Mariota to take offset language on any deal he signs with the team. Offset language itself protects franchises from having to pay out guaranteed cash to players who end up leaving the organization prior to their rookie deals coming to a conclusion. It prevents the player from collecting two checks if he’s cut by his original team.

What doesn’t seem to be a major issue, especially considering the Titans view Mariota as their franchise guy, appears to be the hold up in negotiations.

Interim Titans President and CEO Steve Underwood clarified the team’s stance on negotiations just recently. And it doesn’t look like the organization is going to budge:

“We’ve always had offset language in our player contracts. It’s nothing new,” Underwood said, via ESPN.com. “I think it is important where a high first-round draft pick is concerned, because it’s the precedent. Everything that we do is precedential for the next round of contracts.”

“So keeping the offset in place is something we want to be able to do going forward. And the minute you back away from the contract principal then you no longer are able to assert it going forward.”

The issue with this stance is that Tennessee’s philosophy doesn’t fall in line with other organizations around the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to terms with No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston the day after selecting the quarterback back in May. Despite a wide array of off-field issues, that deal did not include offset language.

Considering Mariota is seen as a safer bet from a character standpoint, most would draw the conclusion that the Titans are being bullish here. And considering they selected him with the second pick, the team isn’t showing a ton of confidence in Mariota’s ability to succeed over the long term.

With training camp set to start two weeks from Thursday, time is running out here. The Titans simply can’t afford to have Mariota sitting out as they prepare to rebound from what was a disastrous 2014 campaign. If the quarterback isn’t signed by the start of camp, it’s going to set him back a big way heading into his rookie season.

Photo: USA Today Sports