As we inch closer to training camp, the Titans have yet to sign No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota to a contract. They are not hiding the reasoning either: They would like offset language in his contract. Mariota would not.
Here's the team's interim president and CEO Steve Underwood speaking on Tuesday:
"We've always had offset language in our player contracts. It's nothing new," Underwood said, via ESPN.com. "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."
Before we get into why this sounds ridiculous, you should check out NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport's breakdown of what exactly offset language means.
In a nutshell (from Rapoport): "If there is offset language, it allows the team to save money when releasing a player. Let's say a first-rounder is due $2 million in his fourth year. If he's released, and then agrees to a $2 million deal with a new team, the original team is completely off the hook. He receives $2 million from his new club, and the team that drafted him washes its hands of the situation. If there is no offset language, the discarded player receives the guaranteed money from his original team and the full salary from his new team. The original team can't merely allow the new team to pay the remaining guaranteed money as part of the new deal."
So no double-dipping, right?
Our question to the Titans is, why do they care in this scenario? This is a quarterback drafted No. 2 overall and precedent can -- and should -- be thrown out the window. Is it necessarily precedent to announce that Mariota will start from Day 1 despite the fact that they apparently coveted Zach Mettenberger and lauded his work ethic all offseason?
It's understandable that the Titans want to maintain a crisp legal format to the bones of their contracts, but franchise quarterbacks have always played by different rules. Cam Newton has no offset language and neither does Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Blake Bortles, according to league records. Precedents can work both ways. An agent won't care what the Titans do, he'll care what any team has gotten in that slot and at that position before.
If it all seems trivial, it is. As many have already echoed, no one will still be Tennessee's front office or coaching staff if the Titans have to get rid of Mariota before the end of his contract anyway. Failing franchise quarterbacks often bring a top-to-bottom bleaching and force owners to start all over again.
The problem is, the Titans have now planted their heels in so deep they might not want to look weak and cave. It might be too late to take the obvious -- and easy -- way out.
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