Eight Years Later, Birds Finally Do Deal For Mariota
The deal that was never done is finally, a decade later, actually done.
The Eagles moved quickly to replace free-agent departure Gardner Minshew, reportedly agreeing to terms with quarterback Marcus Mariota on a one-year deal to back up Jalen Hurts, per ESPN.
The deal is worth $5 million with the chance to make much more, per the report.
Former Falcons’ QB Marcus Mariota reached agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles on a one-year, $5 million deal worth up to $8 million, per source. Mariota is expected to be the Eagles’ No. 2 QB this season. pic.twitter.com/pBYEOxiMPk
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2023
Mariota, a 2015 No. 2 overall pick of the Titans from Honolulu, has started 74 career games, making him one of the league’s more experienced backups.
His ability to run – he has more than 2,000 career rushing yards – gives the team a reliable backup who can execute the same keepers off zone reads and other athletic-quarterback play calls often built into the offense for Hurts.
Mariota, the former Oregon star, won the Heisman Trophy in 2014. Upon entering the 2015 draft, his college coach, Chip Kelly, was then head coach of the Eagles.
Kelly made a hard push to trade up in order to reunite with Mariota, who led Oregon to the national championship game as a junior under Kelly’s watch, according to multiple reports. The trade involved multiple first-round picks and multiple players, but Kelly has denied the report more than once.
But the Titans never accepted the deal, and Kelly downplayed the idea that he tried to move up, telling reporters that the price to move up was too steep, like “driving into a nice neighborhood and looking at a house and saying, ‘That’s really nice,’ and then they tell you the price and you turn around and drive away,” he said.
“We didn’t walk in the front door. We didn’t take a look around,” Kelly added.
Mariota’s pro career hasn’t matched his college success. The Eagles are fourth team in five years, after he spent the last year in Atlanta – where he went 5-8 as a starter – following two years as rarely used backup for the Raiders. He threw 30 passes in two seasons for the Raiders.
Mariota showed some promise with the Titans after a 3-9 rookie season, going 8-7 in his second year and 9-6 in his third season. He won a playoff game in 2017 but hasn’t since, and lost his job in 2019 when the Titans traded for Ryan Tannehill.
For his career, Mariota is a 63% passer who has averaged 180 passing yards, with an 89.3 passer rating. He has 43 career lost fumbles, including eight last year and 10 apiece in each of his first two seasons.
He’s 34-40 and thrown 92 touchdowns to 54 interceptions, although one of his best games came in 2018 against the Eagles, when he passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns against Jim Schwartz’s defense, leading the Titans to a 26-23 win in Nashville.
He set a personal record for most completions in that game along with having his third-highest passing yards and adding 46 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. In overtime, he connected on a 4th-and-15 pass to Taywan Taylor for 19 yards and later on the drive hit Corey Davis on 3rd-and-10 for the game-winning 10-yard touchdown.
Mariota becomes the second backup in the Nick Sirianni era, as the team lost Minshew to the Colts, where the quirky quarterback will reunite with Shane Steichen, the Eagles’ offensive coordinator the past two years who recently became Colts head coach.
The Eagles also have Ian Book, who they claimed off waivers from the Saints last season. Book, a former Notre Dame star, spent the 2022 season as the third quarterback and has played in one just one career game.
Mariota is the third player signed by the Eagles in free agency, joining running back Rashaad Penny and cornerback Greedy Williams, all to one-year deals.
All other signings were extensions or new deals for in-house players, including James Bradberry, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Darius Slay.
The new NFL year began 4 p.m. Thursday, and many of the market’s top free agents have found new homes. Despite the losses of some major pieces on defense, the Eagles can still retain free-agent safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who remains unsigned.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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