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Should Raiders trade Mariota to Colts? Examining both arguments

Diving into both sides of trading Las Vegas’ backup QB

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Marcus Mariota
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATED on Monday at 11.35 a.m.: Carson Wentz will undergo surgery today on his injured left foot and be sidelined approximately five to 12 weeks, coach Frank Reich said according to ESPN.

PREVIOUSLY:

The Las Vegas Raiders currently have something the Indianapolis Colts don’t have: A healthy quarterback with starting potential. That makes Marcus Mariota a valuable trade asset for the Raiders.

Carson Wentz, the Colts’ starting quarterback, left practice on Thursday after feeling a twinge in his foot and has been ruled out indefinitely. Specifics on the injury have not been released so speculations are running wild, but it appears as if Wentz is destined to miss a significant amount of time. That leaves Indianapolis with second-year pro Jacob Eason, rookie Sam Ehlinger and newly-signed Brett Hundley as their only viable options under center for the time being.

Neither Eason nor Ehlinger has starting experience ... and Hundley was available this time of year for a reason. That puts the Colts in a huge bind because the rest of the roster is ready to compete for a playoff run but beginning the season — and maybe going even longer —without a competent signal caller will significantly decrease their postseason chances. So, general manager Chris Ballard will likely be picking up the phone and making a few calls to some other teams around the league.

Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Carson Wentz
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

If Ballard dials a 702 number, should Mike Mayock pull the trigger and send Mariota to Indy? We’ll first have to at least take a stab at what the offer would be. Looking at some other quarterback transactions that happened this offseason will help give us a baseline for what the Raiders’ backup quarterback is worth.

The Colts acquired Wentz via trade and gave up a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional second-rounder in this year’s draft that could turn into a first-round selection. That condition takes Indianapolis’ first and second picks off the table for Las Vegas since Philadelphia has the rights to one of them, and that would probably be too steep of price Mariota, anyway. Draft-wise, that leaves the Colts’ third- or fourth-round picks as the highest draft compensation they can give for this year.

To serve as a couple of other baseline trades, the Panthers gave up second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks to get Sam Darnold and got a sixth back for Teddy Bridgewater. So, I think it’s fair to say Mariota is worth Indy’s 2022 third-round pick, given the context of the situation and other similar transactions throughout the league.

Now, the question shifts to: Should the Raiders make the trade?

The Case For

Having the best (or even just a quality) backup quarterback is a great luxury to have, but it can also be utterly useless. In an ideal world, it’s a roster spot where you hope the player never sees the field because that means something bad happened to the starter. Sure, it’s nice to have a backup plan if Derek Carr goes down or isn’t playing well, but he’s missed a total of two regular-season games and has been a good player in recent years.

Thus, Mariota could be more valuable if he’s flipped for a mid-round draft pick with starter potential, than if he holds a clipboard and plays sparingly for Las Vegas.

The Silver and Black are going to need to move quickly to maximize their deal. Right now, everyone’s last impression of Mariota is him putting together an impressive performance on Thursday Night Football against the Chargers. Also, he’s reportedly been tearing it up early in training camp, so it might be best to strike while the iron is hot.

Another reason to be swift is the Raiders likely won’t be the only call the Colts make. Ballard and company could pick up the phone and call places like San Francisco, Jacksonville and Chicago to inquire about Jimmy Garoppolo, Garner Minshew or Nick Foles. Personally, I’d take Mariota over those three, especially considering the contract situations, but the longer Las Vegas sits around the more time another organization has to come in and make a deal.

Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders
Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Case Against

While Carr has proven to be durable, injuries can happen to anyone at any time, and the Raiders watched Mariota come off the bench and put the team in a position to win not too long ago. Also, many feel this is a pivotal year for Carr and if the team isn’t winning, having someone else turn to for a spark off the bench is a nice luxury to have. An extra mid-round pick is nice, but it’s not going to matter much if the team has problems under center.

Playoff implications are another factor to consider. The Silver and Black are hoping to make a push for the postseason this year and Indianapolis will likely be one of the teams standing in their way. So, why do something that could potentially help revive another organization’s playoff hopes if they’re in the same conference?

It’s also worth noting that the Raiders and Colts will face off in what could be a very pivotal Week 17 matchup. If Mariota is playing well and keeps the Colts afloat, then the trade could really come back to bite the Raiders.

As far as timing, Las Vegas could benefit by waiting to make the deal. With three preseason games coming up shortly, the former Duck will have plenty of opportunities to put some good tape together and increase the organization’s return in a trade. It might be some delayed gratification, but the Raiders could wind up swiping multiple picks or better value with early 2023 selections from the Colts if Mariota continues to have a good camp.

Conclusion

Personally, I’d go ahead and make the trade now. If the Colts are going to make a move, they’ll probably want to move quickly so their new quarterback can start to pick up the playbook, and I just feel Mariota is more valuable being flipped for picks than he is as a backup.

But I’ll leave things open-ended. Sound off in the comments section with what you think. Should the Raiders trade Mariota? If so, when and for how much?