After leading the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship, Ryan Tannehill has definitely secured the starting quarterback position for the Titans moving forward. Tannehill was recently named PFWA Comeback Player of the Year, and he led the league in passer rating with 117.5. But where does that leave former Titans starter and second-overall draft pick Marcus Mariota?
Tennessee picked up his fifth-year option for 2019, and Mariota made over $20.9 million this season, per Spotrac. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and Tennessee could place the franchise tag on him. Re-signing him at this stage seems unlikely after Tannehill’s performance.
Mariota originally signed a four-year deal worth over $24 million with the Titans, and his average yearly salary was just over $6 million from 2015-2018. He was paid over $20 million this season because, as a top 10 draft pick, the fifth-year option salary is calculated by averaging the ten highest salaries for the position each player plays. Here’s a look at his contract over the last five seasons, per Over the Cap:
Thus, Mariota was paid the league-average salary of the ten best quarterbacks in the NFL. He very likely won’t be making that same salary in 2020, because he remains unproven — and he will also very likely be playing for another team next year, perhaps as a backup. Here are five teams that could bring Mariota in next season, a few of whom may surprise you.
Mitchell Trubisky will likely be the Bears’ guy in 2020 — unless he plays himself out of a job. Bears general manager Ryan Pace has publicly backed Trubisky, but the Bears’ quarterback room will be changing in 2020, with Chase Daniel and Tyler Bay’s contracts both expiring, and Pace will likely bring in some competition for Trubisky to strengthen the position as a whole.
While his former coach at Oregon, Mark Helfrich, has been fired as the Bears OC, Pace still loved Mariota in 2015 when the QB was drafted, and Pace has been known to make moves to acquire guys he likes. There has been some speculation that the Bears may not sign Mariota because he and Trubisky are repped by the same agency, but the Bears will be bringing in a more experience quarterback to challenge Trubisky, and if the price is right with Mariota, it could absolutely be him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians has already let it be plainly known that he feels his team can win with — or without — Bucs’ current quarterback Jameis Winston. Considering Arians’ refusal to back Winston completely, it seems likely the Bucs will be bringing in new quarterbacks next year.
Current backup Ryan Griffin likely won’t be the answer, and Blaine Gabbert is a perpetual backup for a reason. Bringing Mariota in seems like a logical thing for Arians and company given their current situation.
Sure, the Vikings have Kirk Cousins, and yes, the team is paying Cousins $84 million. But they also have no legitimate backups, and if Cousins would go down or have a bad year, who would the Vikings even turn to at this point? Sean Mannion?
Enter Mariota. His asking price won’t be anywhere near the $20 million he made this year. He was benched mid-season in favor of Tannehill, so he will have to take a fiscal hit in 2020. He could easily sign with a contender in need of a backup like Minnesota if he tests the market and doesn’t see m(any) starting opportunities.
After the sophomore season Baker Mayfield had, getting a veteran backup doesn’t sound like a horrible idea. Drew Stanton and Garrett Gilbert are the current Browns backups, and neither is giving Mayfield any competition. Perhaps what Mayfield needs is a push; another quarterback who could be a capable starter as opposed to a career backup.
Bringing Mariota in would challenge Mayfield while giving Cleveland a total upgrade in their quarterback room.
Will Grier could possibly be the future. Kyle Allen could be the guy right now, or, at least, in 2020. And Cam Newton will likely be playing for someone else, which would leave the Panthers and new head coach Matt Rhule in need of a veteran presence in the quarterback room.
Many people think Mariota could go to the Miami Dolphins, but the Fins are likely drafting Tua Tagovailoa with their first pick, and they have the ageless Ryan Fitzpatrick