NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two things are guaranteed every time a starting NFL quarterback’s contract is extended: sticker shock at the price tag that comes with a market continually adjusting for the annual salary cap increase and the conversations that are born out of what this will do for the next guy in line.
The Philadelphia Eagles announcing a four-year, $128M ($107.9M guaranteed!) extension for Carson Wentz with two years still remaining on his rookie deal accomplished both of those things in a slow June news cycle.
The #Eagles and Carson Wentz have agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension through 2024.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) June 6, 2019
Philly’s move drew surprise by media, fans and former NFL executives alike, causing fan bases with young quarterbacks they have not entirely decided on to cringe at the thought of what it might cost to retain their respective signal-callers. Can players with similarly small bodies of work truly command that kind of money?
Enter Marcus Mariota.
The uncertainty that surrounds the Tennessee Titans’ forthcoming decision on keeping Mariota in Nashville is well documented. The 2015 second overall pick’s inability to play a full regular season is one thing, but the overall mediocre performance when he is on the field is another. Now, a player at Mariota’s position with a similar injury history, less playoff success and drafted in the exact same spot one year later will make, on average, $1.5M less annually on his extension than Aaron Rodgers.
While a franchise tag for Mariota might make the most sense as we sit here before the 2019 season, here is what Wentz’s new deal most affects for Tennessee if they opt to sign the former Heisman Trophy-winner to a long-term extension:
Unsure about Marcus Mariota because of all the games he has missed through four years as a pro? Are you comforted at all by the fact that Mariota and Wentz have missed the same amount of their team’s contests in the regular season (8) despite Wentz being in the year for a full season less? Mariota has played in 56 of a possible 64 games since the Titans drafted him and Wentz, getting an extension after coming off two significant injuries, has appeared in 40 of a possible 48.
Rep1 Sports, the agency that represents Mariota, Wentz and Jared Goff, will and should cite those numbers in negotiations with GM Jon Robinson for a potential Mariota extension; it is the thing that contradicts the “injury-prone” narrative most.
In fact, a closer look at both players would reveal that Mariota is arguably the more successful of the two. Wentz was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and was a serious MVP candidate for the 13 games he played in before tearing his ACL against the Rams that year. While Mariota has never performed at that level, Tennessee’s starter boasts three more important stats: 11 game-winning drives, two playoff starts and one postseason victory. While the Eagles did win a Super Bowl after drafting Wentz and have been in the playoffs two out of the three years since then, Wentz sports only four game-winning drives and has been unavailable for all five his team’s playoff games.
Even if the two players’ careers are a push, there is solid ground for the agents to stand on.
Both sides will nitpick the details of those stated facts but Rep1 Sports would be negligent in their duties as representation if conversations on a Mariota (or Goff, for that matter) extension did not start at Wentz’s $32M annual figure. That may seem unreasonable to fans (and the team) but the player is worth what the market says they are worth. Because of that, franchise tagging Mariota, regardless of 2019’s results, may be the smarter play. It will cost the Titans even more down the road, though, if they push off an extension and he thrives.
One certainty: Philly gambled on Wentz’s potential and cost every other team looking to extend their quarterback dearly in the process
Featured images: Brad Penner/Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.