12:16 AM ET
Paul GutierrezESPN Staff Writer
- Covered Oakland Raiders for CSNBayArea.com and Sacramento Bee for eight years
- Member of Pro Football Writers Association
- Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated
ALAMEDA, Calif. — While Marcus Mariota has been a starting quarterback for most of his five-year NFL career, and he is getting $17.6 million for two years with $7.5 million guaranteed this year, he said he has no confusion over his place in the pecking order with the Las Vegas Raiders.
He is coming in as Derek Carr‘s backup, Mariota said, with the hope to improve not only the Raiders’ quarterback room but to better his own play.
“First and foremost, this is Derek’s team, and I understand that,” Mariota, a Honolulu native, told Hawaii-based KHON-TV on Tuesday in his first public comments since agreeing to terms with the Raiders on March 16.
“I understand that going in. … My priority going into free agency was to be a part of a team that I felt could bring out the best in me. Whatever happens, whatever comes of that, I’m ready for. But I do know, to play starting quarterback in the NFL, to be at that spot, is not an easy job to do. And I think when it comes down to it, a strong, stable supportive quarterback room makes that job a whole lot easier, and that’s what we have to do. And I’m going to do my best to support Derek in every possible way that I can; and along with that, I’m just going to try to become the best player that I can be and see where that takes me.”
Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Oregon, was the No. 2 overall pick by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL draft. That year, he was rated as the top quarterback prospect by Mike Mayock, the current Raiders general manager who at the time was an NFL Network draft analyst.
“The biggest thing that jumps out with Marcus Mariota is his athleticism,” Mayock said at the time. “Think Colin Kaepernick. … Now, every once in a while, he misses a wide-open throw. Once or twice a game that happens. This is what he’s going to have to learn.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden also was a big fan of Mariota’s at the time.
“He is a legitimate dual threat,” Gruden offered as an ESPN analyst then. “Adjust your offense to this kid’s skill set.”
Mariota will earn up to an additional $2.4 million if he plays 60% of the snaps this season, with another $1.5 million in per-game playing-time and win incentives, per the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Mariota also has $10 million in those incentives in 2021, with $2 million in playoff/Super Bowl incentives each year and an additional $12 million in a 2021 salary escalator.
Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders in the summer of 2017.
Mariota started 55 of his first 56 games for the Titans, but after getting off to a 2-4 start in 2019, he was benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill, who led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game.
In five seasons, Mariota has passed for 13,207 yards, 76 touchdowns and 44 interceptions while going 29-32. He also has rushed for 1,399 yards and 11 TDs on 242 carries in his career, while getting sacked 155 times.
“These last five years have been a blessing, no doubt,” Mariota said. “I think Nashville has treated us very well. But this is a great opportunity for us, and it’s an opportunity to be closer to home and also to be part of a great organization.”
Las Vegas is known as the ninth Hawaiian island because of the city’s popularity with the locals. Mariota said that was something he liked about joining the Raiders.
“The bonus and the cherry on top of it was being closer to home and being in Vegas,” Mariota said. “And again, I really can’t stress it enough, we’re so excited.”