The Raiders signed Marcus Mariota, we all knew that. But what we just learned is that they signed him to a rather interesting contract. Let’s take a look.
This contract is a really interesting way to go about things. Clearly, the Raiders do not have enough faith in Mariota to move on from Derek Carr and make Mariota the starter. The base salary if Mariota does nothing but spend the season sitting behind Carr is a big one for a backup, but still well within the range of a backup salary.
But then there are the incentives, and this is where things get really interesting.
As clear as it is that the Raiders don’t like Mariot enough to hand him the starting job, it’s equally clear they aren’t 100% sold on Carr. You just don’t give a contract like this to a backup unless you’re hoping for some competition.
Because, here’s the thing. That contract comes with some risk for the Raiders.
Sure, there’s a scenario where Mariota outplays Carr and they are more than happy to pay him like a starter. But the Raiders could end up paying Mariota a lot of money even if he plays poorly.
With $7.5 in guaranteed money this year. Mariota is making the team and staying for the season. If Carr gets injured and misses a significant portion of the year, Mariota will cash in.
The incentives aren’t based on beating out Carr, they’re mostly based on playing time. So if Carr gets hurt and Mariota plays most of the snaps at quarterback, the Raiders could end up paying him around $12 million this year.
That’s a lot to pay a guy who is just a backup, even if he is forced into starting duties thanks to an injury. Far and away most backups in the NFL do not get a bump in salary when they step in for the injured starter.
And again, because he has so much guaranteed money this year, there is a scenario where Mariota looks terrible in camp and preseason but because of an injury, still gets paid $12 million.
The Raiders would be happy to pay those incentives if Mariota balls out and wins the starting job. But they may have to pay some of those incentives even if Mariota doesn’t play well.
And that’s what makes this contract so interesting and why it’s a big sign about Derek Carr. The Raiders were willing to take a decent-sized monetary risk in order to bring in competition for Carr.
That’s just not something you do when you have a quarterback that you’re sure is your guy moving forward.