Thanks to the new contractual bargaining agreement’s rookie slotting system, more than half (18 of 32) of 2015’s first-round draft picks are already under contract. Six out of the top seven selections have signed deals, and the lone holdout — quarterback Marcus Mariota of the Titans — will begin rookie contract negotiations on Monday, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Talks should proceed smoothly (again, thank the CBA), but one issue in the discussions could be the subject of offsets, writes Florio.
As Luke Adams explained in a PFR Glossary entry last June, offset language refers to what happens to a player’s salary if he’s cut during the life of his rookie contract. The player wants such language omitted from the contract — if he’s waived at some point, he’d collect not only his guaranteed money from his former employer, but whatever cash he can score on the open market. The club, alternatively, wants offset language included in the deal, as it releases them from a portion of the contact provided the player finds a new club.
As Florio notes, No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston didn’t force the issue on offsets; rather, he quickly caved and agreed to a contract with the Buccaneers the day after he was drafted. In fact, only one player selected in the top 10 has a deal that contains offset language — third overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. Given that Mariota was drafted earlier than Fowler Jr., it stands to reason that he could fight to include offsets.
It probably makes sense for the Titans to capitulate for two reasons. First, as Florio writes, if Mariota’s play is poor enough that he’s waived before his rookie contract expires, all off Tennessee’s decision-makers will have likely been fired anyway. In other words, there’s no sense in general manager Ruston Webster digging in on the issue of offsets, as he won’t be around much longer if Mariota fails.
Second (and this is my personal view), the Titans should yield on the offset issue because if Mariota is bad enough to be waived in the coming seasons, he won’t earn enough with a second club to make a dent in Tennessee’s books. As the second overall pick, Mariot will get every opportunity to succeed with the Titans. If he fails to the level of being cut inside of four years, what would his market be in free agency? Not very large, I would guess, meaning that the relief felt by Tennessee would be small anyway.
According to the rookie estimates provided by Over the Cap, Mariota should be in line for a four-year deal worth $24.21MM, with a signing bonus of roughly $15.87MM.