The Titans became the final team to come to terms with their first-round pick earlier this week, agreeing to a standard four-year deal with a fifth-year option with quarterback Marcus Mariota. The delay in negotiations was largely (if not entirely) due to haggling over offsets, and as such, the final contract reportedly contains partial offset language, the details of which we’ve learned today.
According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today (all Twitter links), the only portion of Mariota’s $24.214MM contract that would be subject to offsets are his base salaries, which total just $2.28MM. Mariota’s signing bonus, which is worth roughly $15.87MM, and his roster bonuses — $1.011MM in 2016, $2.021MM in 2017, and $3.032MM in 2018 — are protected. Additionally, Pelissero reports that those roster bonuses are due on the fifth day of training camp each year.
Speaking on the subject nearly two weeks ago, Titans CEO and president Steve Underwood seemed adamant that the club would not budge on the issue of offsets. “We’ve always had offset language in our player contracts. It’s nothing new,” Underwood said. “I think it is important where a high first-round draft pick is concerned, because it’s the precedent. Everything that we do is precedential for the next round of contracts.”
Instead, it appears as though Tennessee caved on the issue; the club could point to the fact that some offsets were included as a win, but for the most part, this looks like a victory for Mariota and his camp. For what it’s worth, No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston didn’t force the issue on offsets, choosing instead to agree to a contract with the Bucs the day after he was drafted. Only one player selected in the top 10 – third overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. – has a deal without any offset language.
As explained by Luke Adams of PFR last summer, offset language relates to what happens to a player’s salary if he’s cut during the first four years of his career, while he’s still playing on his rookie contract. For the top 15 to 20 picks in the draft, those four-year salaries will be fully guaranteed, even if a player is waived at some point during those four seasons. For example, if a player has $4MM in guaranteed money remaining on his contract and is cut, he’ll still be owed that $4MM.
However, if a team has written offset language into the contract, that club can save some money if and when the player signs with a new team. For example, if that player who had $4MM in guaranteed money left on his contract signs with a new club on a $1MM deal, his old team would only be on the hook for $3MM, with the new team making up the difference. If there’s no offset language on that first deal, the old team would continue to be on the hook for the full $4MM, and the player would simply earn an additional $1MM from his new club.