NFL rumors: Contract incentives are crashing Marcus Mariota’s trade market

Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) warms up before a game against the Miami Dolphins at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota has been the subject of trade rumors, but he’s reportedly not a hot commodity anymore because of the incentives in his contract.

Mariota is a pricey backup QB but a bargain for any team who wants to make him a starter. Well, at least until Mariota starts hitting certain marks on the field and earning more money.

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NFL rumors: Marcus Mariota trade market ‘dried up significantly’

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on the latest developments in a potential Mariota trade, indicating multiple teams moved “down the line” in negotiations but that his contract caused trepidation:

The most important part from Rapoport’s report is that Mariota’s incentives could make him as much as $12 million on top of his $11.35 million current cap hit.

Even $23.35 million is a low rate for a starting quarterback in the modern NFL, but with the league’s 2021 salary cap much lower than is typical, there are complications, as potential Mariota suitors can’t be sure how much he’ll be on the books for in the end.

If a team really likes Mariota as its starter for the upcoming season, it should take into account him earning his maximum incentives. That seems like a pretty easy solution.

However, Rapoport also added that because Mariota is in a contract year, teams could just wait it out until the Raiders possibly release him. After all, Las Vegas would save over $11 million in cap room by doing so, and teams that want to acquire Mariota wouldn’t have to yield a draft pick and could negotiate a new deal with him.

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Teams best suited to target Marcus Mariota

Teams best suited to target Marcus Mariota
Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Football Team has been a suitor touted as an ideal landing spot for Mariota. He’d probably walk into the nation’s capital as the favorite to start, especially after Alex Smith‘s latest remarks that hinted the Football Team didn’t want him to play in 2020, despite the fact he led them to a 5-1 record as a starter.

Other than Smith, journeyman Taylor Heinicke, who signed a two-year contract extension this offseason and played well in the Wild Card Round against Tampa Bay, is the only other real competition on the roster.

Mariota could bring a unique rushing element to Washington’s offense and not cost a lot against the cap. The Football Team could then pursue additional weapons at the skill positions to help Mariota out. Between those moves, and considering the fact that Washington just won the NFC East on the strength of its defense, things could be looking great for Mariota and the Football Team in 2021 if things were to fall that way.

Other potential landing spots for Mariota include the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. Both organizations are historic and have elite head coaches in Bill Belichick and Kyle Shanahan. The Pats have an obvious need at QB but might be too far back in the 2021 NFL Draft to land one. Mariota could make sense as a stopgap option and advance his career with a good showing in New England.

The 49ers could be locked in to Jimmy Garoppolo, yet he’s been injured often throughout his tenure in San Francisco. Shanahan has never worked with a talent like Mariota before, and could be intrigued by the possibility of molding him in his, run-first, play-action-heavy system.

With Derek Carr firmly entrenched as the starter in Las Vegas, it’d make sense for Mariota to pursue other options. It just may require him to be released and take less money to get that second chance as a franchise quarterback after ultimately failing with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted Mariota second overall in 2015.

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