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Opening Line: Marcus Mariota in Las Vegas

It didn’t take long for Hawaii’s Marcus Mariota to find his new NFL home. On the first day of the league’s free agency negotiating period, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner agreed to terms with the Las Vegas Raiders.

It seems like a win-win situation for almost everyone involved. The Raiders get a talented QB who is just entering his prime. Mariota gets a fresh start and an opportunity to get his once-promising career back on track. And for football fans in the 808, well, Las Vegas isn’t referred to as Hawaii’s “Ninth Island” for nothing.

(Oh. We said “almost everyone involved” because we can’t imagine the Raiders’ incumbent starting QB, Derek Carr, is very happy about the signing.)

Mariota is expected to serve as the team’s primary backup QB, but it could wind up being much more than that. While Carr is coming off his best year as a pro – 4,054 passing yards; 21 TDs; 8 INTs; 70.4% completion rate – he struggled mightily at times, and the Raiders faltered down the stretch, losing five of their final six games. Mariota could flourish in Jon Gruden’s And Mariota still has the ability to take off and run, something Carr in 2019 was unable (or unwilling) to do.

Would Mariota be content as Carr’s backup? Probably not. But as he proved last season, when he was benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill, the former Saint Louis Crusader is a team player who will put aside his ego for the good of the team. And make no mistake: With two first-round draft picks and a an impressive haul (so far) in free agency, the Raiders should be playoff contenders in 2020.

It’s no secret that Head Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have long been fans of Mariota. A shrewd talent evaluator, Mayock had Mariota rated above No. 1 pick Jameis Winston in that 2015 draft class. And Gruden himself seemed to enjoy spending time with Mariota during his “QB Camp” series on ESPN. Check it out:

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