For months, the Titans and No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota have been at an impasse over whether there would be offset language in his contract. Mariota remains unsigned, but Titans interim CEO and president Steve Underwood says that the team will not buckle on this issue, as ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky writes.
“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. “So keeping the offset in place is something we want to be able to do going forward. And the minute you back away from the contract principle then you no longer are able to assert it going forward.”
Underwood went on to explain that if he made an exception in Mariota’s case, it would “echo into eternity with player contracts.” Fearful of setting a player-friendly precedent going forward, Underwood says he’s willing to continue this standoff. Underwood also indicated that while missed time at the start of camp isn’t ideal, it also wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The good news for Titans fans is that Underwood says offset language is the last real sticking point in negotiations, so this should be a done deal once that issue is resolved. It’s surprising that the Titans are this adamant about offsets since the odds of it becoming relevant before the end of Mariota’s deal are slim, but the team is apparently more concerned about how it will affect future dealings than how it will affect the No. 2 overall pick.
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.
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 offset language.
Mariota passed for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, leading Oregon to the National Championship Game against Ohio State.