Can Brandon Marshall jumpstart Jets' passing game? Grading the trade
The Jets' passing game has been in shambles for a number of years, but on Friday, they attempted to rectify that situation, adding a big, physical possession receiver to their arsenal. As first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Bears have traded Brandon Marshall to the Jets, pending a physical. According to the NFL Network, the Bears will receive a fifth-round pick in return.
It's Marshall's fourth team since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Central Florida by the Broncos. He was traded from Denver to Miami in April of 2010, at which time the Dolphins gave him a four-year, $47.5 million contract extension. Marshall's time in Miami lasted just two seasons, however -- he was traded to the Bears in March 2012. Former Bears general manager Phil Emery signed Marshall to a three-year, $30 million extension in 2014, but new GM Ryan Pace was non-committal about Marshall's future with the team when asked about it at the 2015 scouting combine.
"We met with him like a lot of individual players, and that's going to be a slow process," Pace said. "We look forward to evaluating that. Sometimes these reputations outside the building—you get inside and it's not what you expected. I think we need to make our own decisions and our own judgments and that's the process we're going through right now."
In the end, it appears that the Bears decided Marshall wasn't worth his mercurial reputation. Marshall has a history of tussling with teammates going back to his days in Denver, and he's bravely come out as the NFL's face for Borderline Personality Disorder.
"Project Borderline is my foundation—well, the Brandon Marshall Foundation is the foundation—but Project Borderline is something we've set up to bridge the gap between clinicians and patients and family members," Marshall told me in 2012. "To break the stigmas and educate, and also to advocate for so many out there suffering. Borderline Personality Disorder affects everyone across the spectrum—it doesn't matter if you're black or white, male or female, rich or poor. We're affected by it. If it's not us as patients, it could be family members or someone in the community.
"I've managed it by getting help, first and foremost, and I'm fine. I don't take any medication or anything like that, and that's one of the stigmas—where you suffer all your life because you don't get the right help. Getting the clinicians to diagnose it, and getting the clinicians to have the right protocol and heart to treat the patients. The right patience to treat the patients. That's one of the things we're trying to get out there—the right information."
After two down seasons in Miami, Marshall rebounded nicely in Chicago, where he was reunited with former Broncos teammate Jay Cutler. He caught 118 passes for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, following that up with a 100-catch, 1,295-yard, 12-touchdown season in '13. But Marshall's 2014 season was a disappointment, as it was overall for the 5-11 Bears. Marshall missed the last three games of the season with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, catching just 61 passes for 721 yards and eight touchdowns.
It was rumored that Marshall wasn't in the Bears' plans for the 2015 season, and had they kept him, his $7.5 million base salary would have become fully guaranteed on March 12.
As for the Jets and their beleaguered passing offense, the addition of Marshall gives the team three legitimate receivers (Marshall, Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley; the assumption is that the team will cut Percy Harvin) for the first time in a very long time. New head coach Todd Bowles saw Marshall's act in Miami, so any ancillary concerns have been discussed. Now, the challenge will be for quarterback Geno Smith (or whichever quarterback the Jets go with in 2015) to get the ball to those targets consistently. One can estimate that the passing game will be more varied and wide open under new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who has a well-deserved reputation for getting the most out of average quarterbacks.
Inheriting Marshall's salary is a net-zero proposition, because this certainly has the Jets ridding themselves of Harvin and his onerous cap hit. When he's healthy, Marshall is an above-average volume receiver who can make contested catches with the best of them, thrives in the red zone and can surprise with speed at times. He probably won't ever see the high-side numbers he once had as Cutler's primary target, but that's as much about where the Jets are as it is about Marshall. The compensation to Chicago is negligible, and the Jets have improved their offense in a very necessary way.