Why Marcus Mariota's contract makes him a less enticing option for Washington

Why Marcus Mariota's contract makes him a less enticing option for Washington

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Ethan Cadeaux
·3 min read
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Why Mariota's contract makes him a less enticing option for WFT originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Marcus Mariota has been a popular name that has come up amongst fans during the Washington Football Team's ongoing search for a franchise quarterback.

Mariota, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, spent the 2020 season as Derek Carr's backup in Las Vegas after spending the first five seasons of his career with the Titans. Mariota played in just one game last season but looked plenty impressive in that lone appearance against the Chargers.

Just 27 years old and with plenty of upside, there are plenty of reasons why Washington might be interested in taking a chance on Mariota.

However, when taking a deeper look at the quarterback's current contract, trading for the former Oregon star becomes a lot less enticing.

Mariota has a base salary of $10.6 million in 2021, which is well below market value for a starting quarterback. That alone is great value. However, the base salary doesn't tell the full story.

As ESPN's John Keim laid out on Twitter, the contract Mariota signed with the Raiders last spring is full of incentives based on playing time and wins. Should Mariota become the starter in Las Vegas, Washington or elsewhere, the amount of money he'll be due next season could almost double.

Let's break it down...

Should Mariota play over 60 percent of snaps in 12 games next season, the quarterback will earn an additional $7.85 million. For each victory Mariota leads his team to, he will earn an extra $156,250 with maximum win earnings of $1.8 million. 

Then, if Mariota leads his team to the playoffs, there are even more incentives. 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.

For Washington, those postseason incentives are not worth worrying about when considering trading for Mariota. If the quarterback led his team to the Super Bowl, any extra money earned by the QB is more than justified and worth it.

But, what happens if Washington trades for Mariota and then he doesn't succeed? 

If Mariota wins seven games for Washington in 2021 (the same number of victories Washington had in 2020), the quarterback would make an additional $1.09 million, plus the $7.5 million he'll earn by playing more than 60 percent of snaps in 12 or more games.

All of a sudden, Washington will have traded and then spent over $18 million on a quarterback, only to be in the same spot at the position next spring that they are currently in right now.

That is exactly what Washington must avoid when finding a quarterback this offseason.

Washington had reported interest in Mariota, according to Mike Lombardi, but the former NFL executive doesn't believe that's the case anymore.

"The Raiders have him under contract for $10 million. He's due to make $20 million if he becomes a starting quarterback," Lombardi said on the Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday.

"So, if you traded for him, you have to account for him and operate under that contract [that] he's going to be $20 million...Washington was interested, I don't think they are interested anymore."

In fact, Lombardi believes Las Vegas might ultimately have to cut Mariota this offseason due to his current contract.

"The more work you do on the player, it kind of leads you to where it's gonna go," Lombardi said. "You just basically know that the Raiders basically have to cut this kid because they can't carry $10 million."

Ultimately, any team that would trade for Mariota would likely need to re-sign him immediately in order to alter his incentive-based contract. His current deal is just too risky for any team to take on, QB-needy or not.

Trading for Mariota could pay off for Washington. But it's also a gamble, a lot bigger of one than it might seem on the surface.