The Washington Football Team won the extremely mediocre NFC East this year, despite not really having the quarterback situation figured out at all. Former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins went from starter to flame-out in a few weeks, and Alex Smith made a heroic return to the lineup but was injured to end the year, leaving little-known backup Taylor Heinicke to play in the playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’ll be back in 2021, but the team reportedly has interest in a potential reclamation project: former No. 2 pick and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.
Mariota was the starter for the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in 2015, from his rookie season through the middle of 2019, when he lost the job to Ryan Tannehill. That situation may be a model for Mariota to return to the rank of NFL starting quarterback. Tannehill was damaged goods leaving the Miami Dolphins, got an opportunity against Tennessee, and has been one of the NFL’s quarterbacks over the last season-and-a-half.
mariota spent the 2020 season with the Las Vegas Raiders, backing up Derek Carr. He only had the chance to make one appearance, but he made the most of it, coming in for the injured Carr against the Los Angeles Chargers late in the season. The Raiders lost a shootout, 30-27, but Mariota shined, completing 17-of-28 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown, and carving the Raiders up on the ground with 88 yards and a score.
He proved that in the right system, he can still be dangerous. The Washington Football Team got some impressive play from Heinicke, a gutsy player with a similar skillset, in a near-upset of the Bucs in the playoffs. Mariota may make sense for that team, and according to former NFL GM Michael Lombardi, they’re very interested.
Will the Raiders be a playoff team in 2021?
@mlombardinfl gives his opinion to @TheWrapRadio as they look back to one of the greatest draft picks of all time. Want more #LombardiLine? Head to https://t.co/3LnVHHdtHa. pic.twitter.com/uPyfyBkTf8
— VSiN (@VSiNLive) February 12, 2021
“I know there’s one team in the NFC East, the Washington Football Team, that is extremely interested in Mariota,” Lombardi said in a recent video for VSiN. “Mariota’s problem is simply this: he’s due to make $10 million this year. If you trade for that contract, and you make him your starter, that contract’s $20 million because he has so many incentives in that contract.
“So it’s going to be very challenging for you to trade for him without redoing that contract. Nobody’s going to take that deal on and pay him $20 million without knowing what you’re getting.”
This isn’t the first rumor about a Marcus Mariota trade that we’ve heard this week. The Athletic previously reported that the New England Patriots could be a prime landing spot for the former Oregon superstar.
Having him back and playing at the top of his game would be fun. Hopefully he gets the opportunity to prove that he can be an NFL starter once again, whether with the Washington Football Team or another franchise.