With the Denver Broncos choosing to place a first round tender on Brandon Marshall, the wide receiver was expected to receive plenty of attention as free agency opened. Surprisingly, that hasn’t happened and a player who has had three straight 100-reception seasons has made only one free agent visit.
With the rookie draft approaching, the chances of a team signing Marshall to an offer sheet prior to the April 15th deadline are dwindling. Reports indicate that the Broncos are now willing to accept less than a first round pick for Marshall and may be willing to move him for a pick in the second round.
Unfortunately for Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, his running and well-publicised feud with his talented wide receiver has hindered the team’s attempt to receive fair value for Marshall.
Potential suitors are well aware of the volatile relationship between the coach and his player. McDaniels forced Marshall to come off the bench for the opening game of last season, and then questioned Marshall’s ability to play through a hamstring injury at the end of the season. McDaniels benched him for the team’s week 17 home loss to Kansas City.
Also hurting Marshall’s trade value is the fact that any team acquiring him will have to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract extension. That is a significant risk considering any further violations of the league’s personal-conduct policy could result in an eight game suspension or more.
The new Seahawks brain trust has already proven they are willing to roll the dice given their acquisition of third string Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. With T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch on the downside of their careers, and Deon Butler coming off a disappointing rookie season, the Seahawks are in need of a playmaker at the wide receiver position.
Marshall would immediately become the Seahawks top receiver and could top 100 catches in 2010 provided Matt Hasselbeck stays under center for 16 games. However, Whitehurst will likely be given a chance to take over the team if they struggle or if Hasselbeck cannot stay healthy.
Expect one of those two scenarios to play out with Whitehurst taking over at some point in 2010. It’s worth noting that Marshall’s production would likely take a hit if Whitehurst moves into the starting line-up during the fantasy playoffs.
Marshall’s downside risk certainly increases without Hasselbeck at the controls. However, he is likely to top 1,100 yards and eight to ten touchdowns if Hasselbeck starts the majority of the team’s games next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs currently possess the league’s worst pair of starting wide receivers in two of Michael Clayton, Reggie Brown, Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter. With quarterback Josh Freeman entering his second year, it would make sense for the team to surround him with a better supporting cast at the wide receiver position.
Armed with two second round draft picks from the Gaines Adams trade with Chicago, the Bucs could afford to move picks to Denver to acquire Marshall. The Bears pick is the 42nd overall and could be enough to pry Marshall away from Denver. It also helps that the Bucs own selections are the third of each round, except for the fifth round which they traded.
Diminishing the odds of a trade to Tampa Bay is that the Bucs may not want to add Marshall’s questionable character to their young team.
Although Freeman flashed some ability as a rookie, his accuracy and decision making leave much to be desired at this point in his career. Expecting him to make a big jump in his second year in the league may be asking too much.
With Tampa Bay, Marshall’s string of three consecutive 100-reception seasons would almost certainly come to an end. A season with between 80-90 receptions, a little over 1,000 yards and 6-7 touchdowns would be more likely. In Tampa, Marshall slides to WR2 status.
New York Jets
The Jets have a solid tandem of starting wide receivers in Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery, but with Edwards on a one-year contract, there has been much speculation that the Jets want to acquire a wide receiver in the draft.
Increasing the odds of a Marshall move to New York is that Mike Tannenbaum is one of the least conservative general managers in the league and is not afraid to move draft picks to acquire veteran players.
The Jets 29th pick of the second round may not be enough to entice McDaniels but an additional late round selection in this year’s draft or in 2011 might be. Alternatively, moving Cotchery and a late round pick would give the Broncos a solid veteran that would help them immediately.
Marshall’s fantasy value in New York would depend on the maturation of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. For all the accolades Sanchez received as a rookie, the bottom line is that he had a 54.8% completion rate and threw 20 interceptions against 12 touchdowns in a conservative offense.
Sanchez certainly has upside and the moxie to establish himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league but he needs to mature and reduce his risk taking when the team gets behind. Of his 20 interceptions, 15 came in just four games.
Simply put, the Jets don’t throw enough to have any receiver catch 100 passes and Marshall’s presence wouldn’t likely change that. They are built to run early and run often. Expect a season of 80 receptions for a little over 1,000 yards and 7-8 touchdowns in New York.
New England Patriots
The Patriots recent history suggests they aren’t afraid of trading for malcontent veteran wide receivers providing the price is right. In addition, they are in need of a receiving threat to play opposite Randy Moss given the uncertain timetable for Wes Welker’s return from the knee injury he suffered at the end of last season.
With three second round picks as well as their fourth and sixth rounds picks and two picks in the seventh round, the Patriots have the ability to acquire Marshall which would give quarterback Tom Brady the best pair (or trio, with Welker) of wide receivers in the league.
Marshall would fit in nicely in New England as the team’s intermediate possession receiver with Moss handling most of the deep work and Welker assuming the underneath routes once he is healthy.
The sky might be the limit in New England for Marshall provided the offensive line returns to its pre-2009 form when it struggled for the first time in recent memory. On the Patriots, Marshall would likely catch a little under 100 passes but be around 1,100 yards and ten or more touchdowns. Marshall’s numbers in this scenario are highly dependent on the return to health of Wes Welker.
Would the Cowboys like to pair Marshall with Miles Austin? Absolutely.
Would Cowboys owner Jerry Jones be willing to admit the colossal mistake he made by acquiring Roy Williams and a 2010 seventh round pick from the Lions for first, third and sixth round picks in the 2009 draft? Absolutely not.
Marshall would look good in a Cowboys uniform but Austin would likely be the team’s deep threat with Marshall assuming more of a possession type receiver role. However, tight end Jason Witten has been Tony Romo’s security blanket so Marshall’s impact in this role would certainly result in less production than as been the norm in Denver.
With the Cowboys, Marshall would likely catch 80-90 passes for around 1,100 yards with seven or eight touchdowns.
Would new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan love to be reunited with his former star pupil? Absolutely.
Does McDaniels want to reunite the pair and watch from a distance as the Broncos former coach and Marshall help reignite a dormant Redskins passing offense? Absolutely not.
The odds of McDaniels doing anything to help resurrect the career of Shanahan and potentially embarrass Broncos owner Pat Bowlen are slim to none. McDaniels may have had a rough ride in his first year as coach of the franchise but there’s no way he’s foolish enough to risk moving Marshall to Washington.
We know what they did together in Denver and Jason Campbell is good enough to allow Marshall to top 100 catches and 1,100 yards. However, the Redskins offense figures to be a work in progress so projecting more than eight touchdowns in Washington would be a stretch.
Similar to the Redskins scenario, McDaniels isn’t about to bring about a Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall reunion in one of the NFL’s largest markets.
Marshall does not seem to really fit the mould of a Torry Holt or Isaac Bruce, who excelled in the Mike Martz offense, but given their past we would expect Cutler to lean heavily on Marshall in this hypothetical situation. Not to mention, Mad Mike will almost certainly have Cutler near the top of the league in pass attempts. This would be the best possible destination for Marshall from a fantasy standpoint. Chalk them up for the pair’s third 100-reception season together, and Marshall’s fourth straight of his career.