Set to make north of $20 million in the fifth and final season of his rookie contract, Mariota’s future in Tennessee and his health — along with the health of the franchise he calls home — will be in question.
If a vote of confidence is needed for the signal-caller, though, Titans coach Mike Vrabel provided one.
“When you make a commitment to the QB you want to make sure this is going to be your guy for the next seven-10 years when you look at the percentage of the cap quarterbacks are driving,” Vrabel told SI.com’s Robert Klemko. “Nobody is more proud of what Marcus has done in the offseason than me. He’s come back stronger, bigger, with greater understanding of what we’re doing offensively, being able to communicate it to players [on] the field. I don’t look at the lack of a long-term extension as a negative, though that’s what people try to make it.”
No matter how it’s worded, the safest bet is that this is a crucial season for Mariota and the Titans all together.
Simply put, Mariota has to put up or pack up.
By all accounts, his teammates love him, he does everything the right way and doesn’t cause a stir off the field. However, the Titans need to take the next step to become better than the, well, Titans, who are likely best defined by Mariota’s 27-28 career record.
Mariota has a playoff win under his belt during his four-season tenure, but Tennessee has played in but two postseason games during that span and three consecutive 9-7 seasons have very much told the tale of a franchise that is a step above mediocre.
It’s time to take that next step as Mariota looks to rebound from a 13-start season in which his importance to his team was glimpsed as much with his absence as it was with his presence.
So, for the 25-year-old QB the future is now.
As aforementioned, though, he has his coach in his corner.
“I think everybody has a contract, and we’re very aware of players who are in the last year of the deal. Marcus is obviously one of those,” Vrabel said. “I know Marcus’ demeanor and that won’t change whether he’s on a 10-year contract or it’s up after the season. He’s that type of person. So I know it’ll work because of how he is.”