The Chicago Bears began their re-tooling process this winter with the hiring of John Fox. Now new general manager Ryan Pace begins work on the roster itself. While the team is stuck with the controversial Jay Cutler under center (thanks to a ludicrous contract), the rest of the roster is likely to be fair game this offseason – including Brandon Marshall.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is Marshall. Not only is he due nearly $21 million over the course of the next three years, but he has been one of the main issues in the Chicago locker room during last season. So much so that some of his teammates even referred to his presence as “exhausting“.
Coming off his first season with less than 1,000 yards receiving (721) since 2007, Marshall may be in agreement that his time in Chicago should be coming to an end. After all, he did post his lowest yards per catch season average since 2009. And as any star wide receiver will show you, they do not take well to declining statistics.
If the Bears opt to send Marshall packing, as many believe they will, who could become some of his most likely suitors?
Let’s be honest, Derek Carr could use some weapons in the passing game. James Jones and Andre Holmes are decent players but neither has the ability to become a true number one threat. The addition of Marshall would immediately give new coach Jack Del Rio a legitimate threat in the passing game.
On the surface it may seem as though bringing on the 30-year old Marshall would contrast the re-build that general manager Reggie McKenzie has put together. However, McKenzie has shown the desire to “re-build” with a combination of young draft picks and veteran leadership. At the beginning of the 2014 season, Oakland boasted the oldest roster in the NFL with an average age of 27.
The Raiders and their fans are hungry for a dangerous receiver. In fact, the team has just one 1,000-yard receiver since 2003 (Randy Moss with 1,005 in 2005). Since the turn of the century, Oakland has seen just five receivers eclipse the 1,000-yard mark; Moss (’03), Jerry Rice (’02, ’01) and Tim Brown (’01, ’00). In comparison, Marshall has seven seasons of racking up at least 1,000-yards since 2007 alone.
Marshall’s big play ability could do wonders for the growth of Carr on the field, allowing the young quarterback to continue his growth from last year’s rookie season. Also, let’s be honest – the possibility of finally ending a nine-year receiver drought might be too enticing for McKenzie and the Davis family to pass up.
Josh Gordon is gone for the year and tight end Jordan Cameron reportedly has no desire to return to Cleveland (can you blame the man?). That means that Andrew Hawkins is the sole true threat that resides within the Browns’ receiving unit.
That’s a problem for coach Mike Pettine and
Johnny Manziel Brian Hoyer whoever is playing quarterback. Hawkins is a great receiver, but he is even more of a weapon when used as a number two or slot receiver. As impressive as he is, the Browns desperately need someone to pair alongside him.
There is a chance the Browns could address the issue in the draft, but after failing miserably last season by drafting Justin Gilbert and Manziel, Ray Farmer and company must draft securely in 2015. That may mean shying away from receiving talent early on.
If that is the case, Marshall could be a solid addition this offseason. After collecting an additional first round pick in the 2015 draft from the Buffalo Bills last year, the Browns now have options (and the pieces for a trade). Two first round picks give Farmer room to play with when it comes to selections in the second and third rounds – which could be exactly what the Bears are looking for in exchange for the embattled receiver.
Bringing Marshall into the fold would instantly make the the Cleveland offense formidable, which is something they are far from at the current moment. At the same time, it would be the first move since drafting Manziel that actually gave the fanbase something to rally around.
New England Patriots
This possibility will have every NFL fan outside of Boston rolling their eyes, we understand. However, this is a move that really makes sense and reminds us of when Bill Belichick acquired Randy Moss back in 2007 – bringing in a receiver with baggage who has tremendous upside. While Marc Trestman and his staff might have been afraid to confront Mashall in Chicago, the same would not be said for Belichick and company in New England.
Tom Brady just won a Super Bowl with Julian Edleman, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell as his leading receivers. That is no group of receivers to turn one’s nose to, but can you imagine the addition of Marshall to such a group?
In 2007, Brady threw 23 touchdowns to Moss on 1,493 yards receiving. Without a doubt, that season featured the best receiver Brady has ever played with. Moss was 30-years old, just like Marshall. The addition of Marshall could have an eerily similar outcome to 2007, if the Patriots make such a move.
While the talk of Marshall to the Patriots may not currently exist, it is definitely within the realm of possibilities. They would have to get creative financially (especially if they are bringing Darrelle Revis back), but they have history when it comes to shocking acquisitions – Revis, Adalius Thomas, to name a few.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are not a passing team – that was evident by Alex Smith‘s 3,265 passing yards and the team’s 1,918 total rushing yards in 2014. With that being said, not a single receive caught a touchdown during the 2014 season. Obviously that is far from acceptable.
While tight end Travis Kelce led the team in receptions (67) and yards (862), he was the lone true bright spot in Andy Reid‘s passing attack. Though Dwayne Bowe resides on the team’s roster, he is in need of help on the outside.
Adding Marshall to a passing game that struggled at times as mightily as Kansas City did in 2014 could be the shot in the arm that Reid and the Chiefs desperately need. Smith has shown the ability to succeed through the air, now the pressure rests with the front office to give him the tools necessary to make it happen.
At the same time, Marshall’s ability to stretch the field could open up additional holes for one of the league’s premier running backs, Jamaal Charles. Last season defenses rarely had to worry about Kansas City’s receivers, and instead could focus solely on stopping Kelce and Charles. Despite teams expecting to see the running game, Charles still managed to average five yards per carry during the season. Imagine what his numbers could look like if Marshall was lining up opposite of Kelce and Bowe.
Even Andy Reid will smile at those possibilities.
Last week we looked into a few receivers the Seahawks could look at this offseason through free agency and the draft to improve their receiving unit. At the time we didn’t even mention Marshall, but now we realize just how perfect of a match-up that could be; at least on paper.
Doug Baldwin stepped up in 2014 for the Seahawks, but they are still in need of firepower on the outside. With Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette free agents, this offseason is the perfect opportunity for Seattle to revamp their offensive weapons.
On paper, the Seahawks could benefit the most from acquiring Marshall – more so than any other team on this list. However, as Percy Harvin can attest to, success on paper is not the only criteria that needs to be met in order to be productive in Seattle.
If the Seahawks feel as though Marshall could buck his reputation and be a leader in the locker room, he is more than worth the risk. An offense that can showcase Marshall, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch is immediately one to watch out for in 2015.
We have yet to see Wilson’s ceiling, as his receiving threats have left much to be desired during his tenure in the league. Surrounding him with additional playmakers could go a long ways towards making him the most dangerous quarterback in the league.
The Seahawks are already a great team , and the addition of Marshall could do one of two things – add to their greatness by giving them another dimension on offense or he could end up being a cancer in the locker room and risk all that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built.
Is it a risk worth taking? We may find out in just over a month.
Cover Photo: George Gojkovich/Getty Images
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