Ferd Lewis: Marcus Mariota gives back anywhere he plays

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Ferd Lewis, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Feb. 21—One of the things to admire about quarterback Marcus Mariota is that he generously gives back through his Motiv8 Foundation in every community where he has lived and played.

From backpacks filled with school supplies, lunches and game tickets for needy youth in Hawaii to charitable efforts in Oregon, where he played in college, and Tennessee, where he spent his first five seasons as a pro, Mariota has been a willing benefactor. Now, on Monday, comes Las Vegas, where he is to help underwrite orthodontic care for two youngsters involved in a vehicle accident.

The growing question these days is : In which community will Mariota next find himself extending his largesse when the NFL's offseason exercise in musical quarterbacks ends ?

Because, for someone who saw less than four full quarters of action in all of 2020, Mariota's name is enjoying wide circulation about possible landing spots amid this most active of quarterback bazaars.

Not that Mariota the player seems to be enjoying it much given a characteristic tight lip on his Raiders future or a preferred alternate destination.

But, then, it has been hard to keep up with the swirling rumors and rampant speculation that seemingly have him headed to the Washington Football Team on even numbered days, New England on others and, on slow days, even staying put in Vegas.

A year ago when he signed a two-year $17.6 million free-agent deal with the Raiders, Vegas seemed an ideal spot given the appreciation of his talents long expressed by coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock, who valued him as a dual threat.

Unfortunately, his own injuries and starter Derek Carr's durability kept Mariota on the bench until Week 15. When Carr departed with a first-quarter groin injury Mariota shook off the cobwebs and displayed the wide-ranging talents that Gruden had been intrigued by since the days of his 2015 "QB Camp " TV show.

Mariota completed 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown and ran nine times for 88 yards and a TD. But it was the manner in which he accomplished it, flashing a decisiveness and buoyed by a confidence largely missing in action the previous two seasons with Tennessee.

Brief as it was, it made for an eye-opening advertisement to teams anticipating need of a veteran quarterback that Mariota (61 career starts ) was capable and healthy again.

Come 2021, the Raiders' problem is that they project to exceed the salary cap and Mariota's $10.7 million cap hit is a dicey proposition when Carr is due $19.5 million and they have so many needs on defense. Moreover, the Raiders have budget-priced backups Nathan Peterman ($2.75 million ) and Kyle Sloter ($920, 000 ) available.

So, the Raiders and Mariota have some hard decisions to make. They include trying to work a trade, though the contract contains potentially daunting elevator clauses that some might not want to take on ; restructuring the deal ; or simply releasing him as a salary cap casualty to become a free agent.

For Mariota, it is the latest episode in the annual uncertainties that have surrounded him the past couple of Februaries.

At this point perhaps the only certainty is that wherever Mariota ends up the community figures to be the better for it.