Not long after Marcus Mariota-to-Atlanta smoke emerged, the former No. 2 overall pick has agreed to reunite with Arthur Smith. Mariota agreed to a two-year Falcons deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the two-year pact is worth $18.75MM. The Falcons have already announced the deal.
The Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts earlier Monday, giving them a quarterback need for the first time since 2008. Mariota is certainly not a lock to be a long-term starter in Atlanta, but the former Tennessee draftee has experience with Smith and looks set to be Ryan’s immediate successor.
Smith was with the Titans throughout Mariota’s five-year Nashville tenure, but he coached the team’s tight ends for the bulk of Mariota’s run. During Smith’s first offensive coordinator season, he benched Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans then let Mariota join the Raiders in free agency in 2020. The former Heisman Trophy winner did not supplant Derek Carr in Las Vegas, but he has a clear path to being Atlanta’s starter next season.
A broken leg sustained on Christmas Eve 2016 altered Mariota’s Titans trajectory. The ex-Oregon phenom was coming off a season in which he threw 26 touchdown passes compared to just nine interceptions, while adding 349 rushing yards and two TDs. He did not reach 26 TD passes combined from 2017-18, as the Titans shifted to a more run-oriented attack. Mariota did guide Tennessee to the 2017 playoffs, where they upset the Chiefs after erasing a three-score deficit, but injuries in 2018 provided more hurdles. Elbow trouble led to Mariota missing time in 2018, and he was ineffective for the 2019 Titans, who surged to the playoffs behind Tannehill.
Mariota, 28, did not make any starts with the Raiders but did provide off-the-bench production as an injury replacement or a gadget running option behind Carr. Smith’s former pupil will give the Falcons a dual-threat option they did not have with Ryan. Of course, it remains to be seen how much Smith can coax from Mariota through the air.