It was assumed when the Tennessee Titans drafted Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 overall pick, he would compete for the starting job as soon as training camp begins in July. But with only about a month until camp starts, Mariota has not signed a contract and is the only 2015 first-rounder who has yet to put pen to paper. Typically, players do not participate in camp unless a deal is in place because practicing in full pads greatly increases the risk of injury.
With the recent addition of the rookie pay scale – one of the outcomes of the NFL lockout in 2011 – it seemed like the days of rookie holdouts were over. Both the length and amount of money in rookie contracts are basically predetermined. But, contracts are complicated and involve more than just numbers. There’s a possibility the issue regarding Mariota is what’s referred to as the “offset clause.” The clause involves language that would allow the Titans to not pay Mariota guaranteed money if he were cut following Year 3 and then signed by another team. Without, Mariota would get paid by the Titans and whatever his new team may be.
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It is worth noting that the Titans do have a history of requiring this clause in contracts and have had other recent first round picks miss part of training camp because deals could not be reached in time.
Neither side seems concerned that a deal won’t get done, but it would not be an ideal way to start the year for Mariota or the Titans. He is a gifted athlete but, as with all spread quarterbacks, it is a steep transition to the NFL and pro-style offenses. Missing a week of training camp would hamper the possibility of Mariota being the opening day starter.