Why offsets shouldn't be an issue for Marcus Mariota or Titans

Marcus Mariota is the only 2015 first-round pick who has yet to sign a contract. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- What's the issue between the Tennessee Titans and Marcus Mariota that has kept them from agreeing to a contract?

We don't know.

The team's record for having rookies in on time, even with a new CBA that provides virtually no reason for holdouts, is poor.

Even so, I suggest not panicking on Mariota until about July 29, the day before the Titans report for training camp.

Offset language is the one issue that remains for teams and players to haggle over in an era where the finances are based on slotting. It could well be the reason for debate between the Titans and Mariota's agents, Bruce and Ryan Tollner and Chase Callahan of REP 1 Sports Group.

The skinny on offset language:

  • A team wants it. If the player is cut during the contract and signs elsewhere, a new deal with a new team offsets part of the money the original team owes.

  • A player does not want it. If a player is cut during the contract and signs elsewhere, the player gets the money from his original team and from his new team. (Also known as double-dipping.)

Since the new CBA was negotiated in 2011, all four Titans first-rounders had offset language in their contracts: Quarterback Jake Locker in 2011, receiver Kendall Wright in 2012, guard Chance Warmack in 2013 and left tackle Taylor Lewan in 2014.

Maybe the offset issue is the holdup between the Titans and Mariota. After all, No. 1 pick Jameis Winston accepted offset language from the Bucs while No. 3 pick Dante Fowler doesn’t have it in his deal with the Jaguars.

Mariota's people surely feel they need to get what Fowler got.

Two agents I spoke with suggested that the team’s contract negotiator, Vin Marino, may not want to give up on the offsets, but only because doing so can be noteworthy to ownership.

One of those agents said Mariota's representatives could be trying to figure out something to fight about, and that winning on offsets is seen by some as a badge of honor when in this instance it “doesn’t mean anything.”

That agent said Mariota “is an extremely bright, high-character kid. Missing a day or two will make no difference in the scheme of things.”

General manager Ruston Webster said in a June 19 interview on my radio show that, “I personally don’t see there being a major issue (that will prevent a deal)” but also that “I don’t concern myself too much with it if a guy misses a few days.”

Having him miss a few days would be a bad idea for the Titans.

There is a huge Mariota buzz in Nashville. If he's absent for the first practice open to the public and it features Zach Mettenberger working as the No. 1 quarterback, that will be the central conversation about the team, which the team doesn't need to fuel.

As I’ve said before: Mariota shouldn’t care so much about being able to double-dip if he’s elsewhere in the next four years because he should absolutely believe he will be entrenched as the Titans’ starter.

The Titans shouldn’t care so much about him being able to double-dip because they should absolutely believe they made the right choice and Mariota will be entrenched as their starter.

How many first-round quarterbacks have not played out their four-year contract?

In the last 10 years, it’s been infrequent. I found five: Brandon Weeden (drafted 22nd by the Browns in 2012), Blaine Gabbert (drafted 10th by the Jaguars in 2011), Tim Tebow (drafted 25th by the Broncos in 2010, traded to the Jets after two seasons but did not play out his full rookie contract), JaMarcus Russell (drafted first overall by the Raiders in 2007) and Brady Quinn (drafted 22nd by the Browns in 2007).

That’s one quarterback in the last 10 years drafted higher than 10th.

A scenario where a guy like Mariota is cut before playing four years with the team that drafted him is incredibly unlikely.

The Titans seem principled about winning offset language.

That's nice and all.

They need to be more principled about changing course, and Mariota is the key to that.

With a quarterback drafted second overall on a team desperate to move in a new direction, the Titans need to make an exception if that’s what it takes to get a deal done for him to be on the field July 31.