ALAMEDA, Calif. -- "First and foremost, this is Derek's team, and I understand that." -- Marcus Mariota, to KHON-TV
Even with Mariota's free-agent signing sending up flares of concern from Carr supporters -- and providing anxious hope among Carr detractors.
It's just ...
While Mariota sounds the P.C. horn and his learning curve for coach Jon Gruden's offense grows increasingly steeper the longer facilities are shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mariota's contract is not the routine deal typically doled out to a backup.
Not at $17.6 million over two years -- with $7.5 million fully guaranteed as a base salary for 2020, up to $2.4 million per game incentive with 60% playtime that can grow up to $3.5 million in additional incentives with playtime, wins and making the playoffs, per ESPN Stats & Information research.
Plus, in 2021, it escalates to a $10 million non-guaranteed base salary with a $100,000 workout bonus and up to $8 million in per-game playtime incentives that can be as much as $14 million with playtime, wins, playoffs and Super Bowl goals.
No, it's not quite starter money, but does that sound like a No. 2 QB's paycheck to you?
In fact, ESPN Stats & Info research shows that Mariota's $7.5 million base salary is the highest for a player in the first year of a new contract who is scheduled to be a backup in 2020, just under the $8 million Teddy Bridgewater will make as a base salary starting for the Carolina Panthers.
Mariota's base salary this season is more than what any quarterback made entering a season as a backup the past two years, as Bridgewater had an annual percentage yield of $7.25 million last year in New Orleans while Mariota's successor in Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill, made $7.0 million. In 2018, Bridgewater's APY was $6 million, while AJ McCarron and Chase Daniel each made $5 million as backups for the Raiders and Bears, respectively.
True, Mariota's status as a former No. 2 overall pick and career-long starter until a 2-4 start last season means he was earning some pretty sizable checks -- to the tune of a $20.922 million base salary last season. So, from his perspective, taking a nearly $13.5 million pay cut is exactly what a backup QB is expected to do, right?
"My priority going into free agency was to be a part of a team that I felt could bring out the best in me," Mariota told his hometown television station. "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."
Indeed, Mariota joining the Raiders will either push Carr -- who signed a five-year, $125 million extension in 2017 and has a base salary of $18.19 million and a cap number of $21.5 million this year -- to new heights ... or push him over the edge like some down-on-his-luck poker player in Las Vegas.
"I look forward to taking the first snap in that stadium," Carr told ESPN.com about Allegiant Stadium in January, "and I look forward to taking every snap from here on out -- until I'm done."
It's a gamble Las Vegas is willing to make, especially with how much Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock raved about Mariota coming out of Oregon in 2015. Gruden advised the Titans to adjust their offense to Mariota's skill set, with Mayock ranking him ahead of Jameis Winston while comparing his athleticism to Colin Kaepernick.
The Raiders also have Nathan Peterman, who spent last season on injured reserve, and DeShone Kizer, who hasn't played as a Raider, on the roster. But while Gruden likes Peterman -- a lot -- the Raiders simply don't know what they have in Kizer, who was elevated to be Carr's backup late last season before being relegated to third string behind Mike Glennon for the season finale at Denver.
But that's a different theory for a different day. For now, it's about Mariota and how he -- and his contract -- fits with the Raiders. Because, as Mariota himself said, this is still Carr's team.