Somewhere, Marcus Mariota is smiling.
He knows that after the culmination of the 2018 season, the Tennessee Titans will have no choice but to make him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in NFL history.
This is the NFL world we currently live in. On Friday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a 5-year, $137.5 million contract with a reported $74 million in guaranteed money. He did so despite accumulating only seven starts under his belt over the past four seasons.
Granted, he’s won all seven starts while playing at a masterful level, but the fact remains, if a quarterback as inexperienced as Garoppolo can earn the richest contract in NFL history (a record that will soon be surpassed), there’s no doubt Mariota is lined up for a hefty payday in Nashville.
It’s just a question of how much.
Could it be a 5-year, $150 million deal with $85 million guaranteed? $90 million?
Regardless of the actual amount, Mariota’s upcoming contract will alter Tennessee’s franchise, both positively and negatively.
On the bright side, franchise quarterbacks are challenging to find. Although Mariota’s raw numbers dipped across the board last season, the Titans managed to win a playoff game last season thanks to his heroic efforts. Locking up a player of his caliber — and more importantly, a human being/leader of his caliber — is the proper decision.
However, Mariota’s impending contract is an inherent risk due to his previous struggles with injuries. The fourth-year quarterback has missed at least one game in each of his three seasons and played the majority of 2017 with hamstring issues.
So if Mariota were to miss time due to injury under his new contract, the Titans wouldn’t stroll a quality backup like Nick Foles (who is set to make more money than Carson Wentz next season). It would be a backup on a cheap contract.
Furthermore, the complexity of general manager Jon Robinson’s job would magnify. Without the benefit of a productive quarterback on a rookie contract, the spike in Mariota’s cap hit would alter the roster. Cornerstone pieces such as Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin are permanent fixtures, but every player outside that category is replaceable.
With the logistics of the roster becoming more complicated, the margin of error for Robinson thins dramatically.
But this is a necessary downside to an overall positive situation. No position provides an easier pathway to sustained success than a franchise quarterback.
Make no mistake about it — Mariota is made of that cloth, and he’ll be worth every penny.
EXTRA POINT: Garappolo’s contract impacts Marcus Mariota, Titans
Featured image courtesy of USA Today