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Chicago Bears Smart to Lock Up Brandon Marshall, but Move Is Not Without Risk

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Chicago Bears Smart to Lock Up Brandon Marshall, but Move Is Not Without Risk
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

After spending big money on an extension for Jay Cutler at the conclusion of the 2013 season and spending heavy on defense through free agency, the Chicago Bears appeared to be done with spending big money this offseason.

Early Monday morning on The View, wide receiver Brandon Marshall announced that the Bears were not done spending money, and he signed a three-year, $30 million extension on air to stay with the team through the 2017 season.

Marshall has been virtually unstoppable since the Bears acquired him via trade during the 2012 offseason. In his two seasons in Chicago, Marshall has 218 receptions for 2,803 yards and 23 touchdowns while being named to the Pro Bowl after each year. 

Despite quarterback Jay Cutler missing time during the past two seasons, Marshall still leads the league with the most targets during that time.

While locking up Marshall makes logical sense for the Bears, there are still some good and bad things about signing the 30-year-old wide receiver to a long-term deal.

 

Marshall and Alshon Jeffery Have at Least Two More Seasons Together

In 2013, Marshall and second-year man Alshon Jeffery were one of the league's most productive wide receiver duos.

The two combined for 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns, second most behind Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker's 2,718 yards and 25 touchdowns.

When asked by the Mully and Hanley Show earlier this year, via CBS Chicago, who the best receiving duo in the league was, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, “Oh my goodness. I would say they’re the best duo in the game. Alshon and (Marshall), those guys are playing so well. Just to see how far Alshon’s come in a short period of time, and obviously Brandon’s still playing at an elite level."

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Jeffery took a huge jump in 2013, and a lot of that can be attributed to Marshall.

While Marshall was viewed by opposing defenses early in the season as the top priority to shut down, Jeffery took advantage of the opportunities in front of him and became a reliable target for Cutler and backup Josh McCown.

Jeffery's jump from an injury-riddled rookie season in 2012 to a Pro Bowl season in 2013 can also be attributed to the time he spent with Marshall in Miami last offseason.

At the time, Jeffery told Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times“I just wanted to learn from someone different and do things different. Plus, he’s a Pro Bowl player. I want to see what it takes.”

Jeffery certainly saw what it takes to become a Pro Bowl player and benefited from his time spent with Marshall during the offseason.

Now that Marshall is locked up through the 2017 season, the Bears will keep one of the league's most productive wide receiver duos intact at least through the 2015 season, when Jeffery's rookie deal is set to expire. 

 

Despite Productivity, Marshall's Age and Prior History Can Make the Signing a Bit of a Risk

When the Bears traded two third-round picks for Marshall in the spring of 2012, many wondered what the catch was.

Marshall had his share of legal troubles and clashes with the coaching staff in Denver early in his career, and that led to him being traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2010.

After arriving in Miami, Marshall and his wife were part in a stabbing incident that led to the police being involved.

The Dolphins appeared to be fed up with his behavior and traded him to the Bears in 2012. Not long after his arrival in Chicago, reports surfaced that Marshall had punched a woman in a New York night club. The charges were later dropped

To Marshall's credit, since arriving in Chicago he has been a model citizen. After signing his extension on Monday, he also announced he would be donating $1 million to the mental health community.

While Marshall has appeared to change and has become more stable from a mental health standpoint, there is always a concern that he could revert back to his old ways.

In addition to slight concerns over his mental health struggles in the past, Marshall turned 30 this past March.

Wide receivers do not decline as steadily as running backs do after they hit the age of 30, but the older any player gets in the NFL, the tougher it is to sustain the success they had in their twenties. 

Players like Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison all have proved in the past that receivers over 30 can still make major impacts, but there is a higher probability for a player's production to drop off the older they get. 

As of right now, it appears that the Chicago Bears have made a great decision to keep Brandon Marshall in Chicago through 2017.

He has the opportunity to continue to be part of one of the best receiving duos in the league with Alshon Jeffery, but the Bears organization and its fans should realize that any player signed to an extension after turning 30, and with a history of personal struggles in the past, still has the potential to not live up to the lofty expectations placed on him.

 

All stats courtesy of NFL.com.

Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow @MattEurich

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