There are no credible rumors that the Seahawks are talking trade with the Chicago Bears about Brandon Marshall, but there is some logic to the concept. Pete Carroll and John Schneider had made inquiries about Marshall in 2010 before he was traded from the Broncos to the Dolphins for two second-round draft picks. They need more talent in their wide receiver room and a bigger body who can excel outside the hash marks. The Bears new coach and general manager have a salary cap choice to make on Marshall that could lead to putting him on the market. Marshall is a legitimate number one receiver, but one the Seahawks should probably pass on.
Marshall rose to Pro Bowl status during Jay Cutler’s early days in Denver. He recorded the most receptions in a game (18) during the 2008 season since Terrell Owens set the NFL mark in 2000 with 20 catches. That wasn’t good enough for Marshall, who went out and set the receptions record the next season with 22 in one game.
He uses all of his 6’4″ frame to make tough catches away from his body. His route running is excellent as well. There have only been a few receivers that stood out for giving the Seahawks secondary trouble over the past three years, and Marshall might be at the top of that last. Seattle beat the Bears in 2012, but Marshall was getting open almost at will for much of that game.
There have been problems, though, with concentration and drops at times. His catch rate often ends up below 60% for this reason. Marshall is not a particularly big downfield threat. He has 39 receptions that went for more than 20 yards in the past three years. Doug Baldwin, by comparison, has 34 and Roddy White has 40 despite missing a chunk of time. It is not for lack of volume. Marshall has been targeted 462 times during that three year stretch.
Cost of acquisition
Seattle would be taking on a hefty salary if they were to trade for Marshall who just signed a contract extension last year. He is due $30M over the next three years. The Seahawks would take on his base salary of $7.5M next year, and Davis Hsu has pegged his estimated cap hit at around $8.1M.
Draft pick compensation would likely be low given the salary the team would be taking on. A sixth or seventh round pick seems right given the deals for players like Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin the past few years. The real cost would be in the contract.
Can he fit in?
Marshall has courageously talked about his struggles with borderline personality disorder and seems to be as smart as he is talented. He is well spoken and plays with passion. There are a lot of reasons to think he is a perfect culture fit for Seattle.
But he also was rumored to have clashed with Cutler this season and undercut him in the locker room. Calling Cutler out for being irresponsible with the football and expecting more out of an offense that featured him, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte is hardly grounds for marking a man a cancer. However, the Seahawks just finished dealing with a very expensive receiver mistake they made with a player could not accept his role or his quarterback.
The dominant storyline of Harvin’s departure was that he refused to re-enter games the team was losing and had physical altercations with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. All of those things undoubtedly contributed to the decision. The less told story was the rumor that Harvin was sowing seeds of doubt about Russell Wilson in the locker room.
For all the fanfare Wilson receives, he still misses a lot of open players. And his propensity for making plays off-script means that players who do their jobs on-script are often left flustered by consistently being ignored. It takes a special kind of person to be part of a receiving group that comes under considerable fire and to keep their mouths shut when the film shows them each week the quarterback is making mistakes. Harvin could not do that, and the front office could not have that eating away at the fabric of the team.
Marshall would be lucky to get 75% of the targets here that he has been used to throughout his career. Wilson will continue to be a highly improvisational quarterback who flusters defenders and his receivers. That could be a combustible combination.
Expensive and risky
I lean toward believing Marshall would be a good fit here. He is smart and a fiery competitor. Standing up to Cutler feels more like leadership than diva behavior. If the question was only about his attitude, I would support the Seahawks rolling the dice. The problem is the salary that comes along with him, and the other potential receiving options out there, makes it a very costly gamble.
Seattle cannot just consider Marshall independently. There would be an opportunity cost, meaning they would not be able to add other players. Torrey Smith and Jordan Cameron, combined, may wind up costing a similar amount as Marshall. Neither is as talented as Marshall and come with their own risks, but there also guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson and others to think about.
Schneider and Carroll cannot afford to be wrong again about an expensive receiving addition. Their margin for error is incredibly slim now that their young stars are getting paid. Marshall is certainly an intriguing avenue, but probably one best left untraveled.