Marcus Mariota deserves to play whether it's with Las Vegas Raiders or elsewhere

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Marcus Mariota deserves to play whether it's with Raiders or elsewhere originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

Heading into the 2020 NFL season, the Raiders coaching staff talked about wanting to rebuild Marcus Mariota after a failed stint in Tennessee to begin his career.

"We've got to rebuild him a little bit to get his confidence back," Raiders GM Mike Mayock said after signing Mariota last offseason. "Let’s see who the best Marcus Mariota is."

Now one season in silver and black later, Mariota appears to be where he began the season: A quarterback who can likely start on another team with no path to the starting job at his current stop. 

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“There’s no intention that they are willing to move off of Derek Carr at this point in time,” Schefter said of the Raiders on ESPN NFL Sunday Countdown. 

Schefter added the Raiders have "no intention to move off him at this time.”

If the Raiders want to do right by Mariota, they should allow him to go compete for a starting job elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Mariota agreed to a two-year, $17.6 million deal with Las Vegas that had a first-year guarantee of $7.5 million with some incentives for playing time. 

Per the details of his contract, Mariota’s cap number will be just above $10.7 million in 2021. That's an expensive rate for a backup quarterback, especially for a team that is unwilling to give Mariota a chance to see who the best Marcus Mariota actually is and one that is trying to get over the hump and return to the postseason.

One or two more key players, which can be bought with $10 million in cap space, could be the difference between the Raiders qualifying for the 2022 NFL Playoffs or missing out again. 

While Las Vegas could cut Mariota and use that money elsewhere, the Raiders can also trade Mariota to a team that thinks Mariota can compete for its starting job. The Raiders get something in return for Mariota and the Oregon alumnus gets an honest shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, which he deserves.  

When Derek Carr injured his groin in Thursday Night Football, Mariota entered the game and breathed some life into the Raiders' offense nearly leading them to victory. The former Heisman winner finished the game with 226 passing yards, one touchdown, one interception along with nine carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. 

It was the only significant playing time Mariota saw all season. Even in week 17 with the Raiders eliminated from playoff contention, Las Vegas elected to start an injured Derek Carr rather than see what Mariota can do with a real gameplan for him. 

Why?

For how highly the Raiders have talked up Mariota, it all feels like lip service.

Sure, Las Vegas doesn't owe Mariota anything and clearly, Jon Gruden thinks Mariota is a worse quarterback than Derek Carr. With that assessment made, why keep Mariota on the bench all game rather than trade him for pieces that will help the Raiders win and allow Mariota to play somewhere else?

If Vegas elects to trade him, the franchise can ensure Mariota goes to a team outside the AFC West if that's it's a concern. 

There are multiple teams that could give Mariota an honest shot to win the starting job in 2021: the Denver Broncos will need to move on from Drew Lock sooner than later, the Washington Football Team will not be in a draft position to draft one of the highly touted 2020 prospects, Cincinnati may want a more serviceable starter before Joe Burrow returns from his torn ACL, Daniel Jones has become a turnover machine for the Giants, and Chicago is in a similar position as Washington where it needs an upgrade at QB but likely cannot draft one. 

There's plenty of opportunities for Mariota, he just won't find any in Las Vegas. 

Here are the 5 NFL Teams that can use Marcus Mariota during the 2021 season.