Marcus Mariota joins the Commanders ready to play or mentor a young QB

Marcus Mariota's hair is grayer now than when he entered the NFL as a highly touted prospect and a potential face of a franchise.

He believes everything he has gone through since has set him up to be ready for anything in his next opportunity with the Washington Commanders.

After signing a one-year contract Thursday, Mariota said he's prepared to play if called upon while also serving as a mentor to the young quarterback who could be coming with the second pick in the draft.

“Whatever this staff, whatever this team needs of me, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities,” Mariota said on a video call with reporters.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of different things throughout my career. I’ve been a starter, won a playoff game. I’ve also been cut, I’ve also been injured, I’ve also been benched. So, I think all those experiences create value and also creates opportunities for me to build relationships with guys.”

One of those guys could be a rookie at football's most important position. Washington is in place to select LSU's Heisman Trophy winner, Jayden Daniels, or North Carolina's Drake Maye if Chicago selects USC's Caleb Williams first, as expected.

It doesn't hurt that Mariota was the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft out of Oregon to the Tennessee Titans. Now 30 and with 90 games and 74 pro starts under his belt, he remembers what that was like and could be the perfect person to provide some perspective.

“That expectation for you to be the quote-unquote ‘savior’ and all that is a lot,” Mariota said. “If that’s the way we go, I can provide a little bit of comfort knowing that: Just be your best version of yourself, don’t worry about everything else, don’t worry about the expectations, just go out there and try to get better every single day and the rest of it will fall into place.”

Hours after Mariota signed his contract, with a base salary of $6 million that could be worth up to $10 million, the Commanders traded 2023 starter Sam Howell to Seattle in a swap of draft picks. It's the latest in new general manager Adam Peters' flurry of moves to turn over the roster that may have only a dozen or so returnees next season.

New linebacker Frankie Luvu, one of many free agent signings, said he's blessed to now be teammates with Mariota after playing against him for several years.

“Just excited to be on the same side as him,” Luvu said. “I’ve seen him grow a lot. ... Just the amount he’s grown and the leadership he’s taken — guys listen to him when he steps in the room and taking control when time is on the clock.”

Mariota said he was willing to “wait and see” about possibly being the starter, which could easily be a placeholder job from Week 1 until a young QB is ready. On his fifth stop after Tennessee, Las Vegas, Atlanta and most recently Philadelphia as Jalen Hurts' backup, he sounds at peace with whatever his role may be.

“For all of us that are in kind of this position, you always want to be a starter,” Mariota said. “You always want to be a guy that’s leading a franchise out there. That’s why you play. That’s why you do it. But I’ll never let my own ego get in the way of what’s most important for the team.”

NOTES: The Commanders re-signed defensive end Efe Obada, making him the third player back from the previous regime along with safety and 2022 All-Pro special teams player Jeremy Reaves and punt returner Jamison Crowder. ... The team also added free agent linebacker Anthony Pittman.