Marquise Brown saw the rise of the wide receiver market and requested a move that could pay off in 2023.
Quietly, Brown asked for a trade, and the Baltimore Ravens accommodated him, dealing the fourth-year pro along with a third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals on Day 1 of the 2022 draft in exchange for the No. 23 overall pick. On the next day, the Cardinals picked up the fifth-year option on his contract.
Brown appeared on the I Am Athlete podcast and confirmed his desire to go elsewhere dated back a couple of years (h/t NFL.com's Grant Gordon):
"It was just something, my happiness. I talked to Lamar about it after my second year. And you know, then after my third year, leading up to the end of the season, he wasn't playing. I let him know again, ya bro, I can't do it. It's not really on Lamar. I love Lamar. It was just, you know, it's just the system wasn't for me personally. I love all my teammates. I love the guys, but it was just something I had to think about for myself."
Brown probably took note of his potential value on the market and made a business decision. Though he recorded career highs in catches (91) and receiving yards (1,008) last season, the Ravens employ a run-heavy scheme under offensive coordinator Greg Roman. With quarterback Lamar Jackson involved in the ground attack, Baltimore has ranked in the top three in rush attempts for each of the last three seasons.
Though the Cardinals have ranked sixth and seventh in total carries for the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, respectively, quarterback Kyler Murray hasn't logged more than 133 rush attempts since entering the league in 2019. That happens to be Jackson's lowest single-season total in four years as a pro.
Furthermore, Brown has an established connection with Murray from their 2018 campaign at Oklahoma. The former racked up 75 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns while the latter threw for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions as the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner.
In case you forgot, Murray and Brown had some electric hookups at the collegiate level. Nate Feken of KFOR in Oklahoma City put together a highlight reel that illustrates some of the magic between the former Sooners:
Nate Feken @TheGreat_Nate
Here's a look at some of our Kyler Murray to Marquise Brown highlights from their days as <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sooners?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Sooners</a>. I'm sure more 🪨📰✂️ is ahead of them as Cardinals. <a href="https://t.co/CkEppXHVYL">pic.twitter.com/CkEppXHVYL</a>
Murray targeted Brown all over the field—on short slants, quick outs, inside the numbers and deep downfield. Clearly, they forged a strong rapport, a bond that doesn't just fade in four years. Keep in mind that the pair had spent offseasons working out together, and this year, Brown kept the trade discussions a secret.
Ultimately, Murray will help his college buddy and teammate get paid a handsome sum—whether it's the Cardinals or another team that's willing to acquire and then sign Brown to a big-money extension.
Brown could easily top his catch and receiving yard totals from the previous season. He'll likely open the 2022 campaign as the Cardinals' No. 1 wideout while DeAndre Hopkins serves a six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
A.J. Green acknowledged he has to work on his communication with Murray to strengthen their chemistry, and fellow wide receiver Rondale Moore will try to make strides in his second season after hauling in 54 passes for 435 yards and one touchdown as a rookie.
Tight end Zach Ertz, whom the Cardinals acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles last October, has only played 11 games with Murray. Rookie tight end Trey McBride has to establish himself within the offense.
Brown and Murray played together as backups before they became starters at Oklahoma, which underscores the depth of their on-field relationship.
"In college, you go through more with your quarterback than in the NFL," Brown told reporters. "Me and Kyler, we got in together, we were on the 'B' squad against the starting defense [at Oklahoma] to all the way to both of us playing."
Brown should jump off to a quick start while Hopkins serves his suspension, though the three-time All-Pro's return won't necessarily hurt the former's production.
With or without the star receiver on the field, Brown seems confident in his playmaking ability. While talking to reporters a week after the draft, he emphasized quality over quantity in terms of targets.
"In college, I had guys around me, [Cowboys wide receiver] CeeDee Lamb. I've played with [Ravens tight end] Mark Andrews. It's not about the targets, it's about what type of targets. ... I've been in an offense where I've been getting all the attention, I've been getting the cloud coverages. I'm excited to get some one-on-one matchups and spread the field out."
In 2017, with Baker Mayfield primarily under center, Brown led Oklahoma in receiving yards (1,095) over Lamb (807) and Andrews (958) as the program's most explosive playmaker that year, averaging 19.2 yards per catch.
In Baltimore, we didn't see Brown make splashy plays with regularity. He averaged 12.1 yards per reception through his first three seasons. Murray and Brown can go back to stretching defenses over the top as they did at Oklahoma, which would allow the 25-year-old wideout to rack up gaudy numbers while his signal-caller spreads the ball among a plethora of talented pass-catchers.
If Brown lights up defenses in the upcoming campaign, how much could he bank next offseason?
The Athletic's Jeff Howe believes Brown could surge to the top of the market:
"Tyreek Hill (four-year, $120 million extension), Davante Adams (five years, $140 million) and A.J. Brown (four-year, $100 million extension) recently signed massive deals, though the backloaded money inflated the sticker prices. Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf will likely eventually get similar pacts to strengthen the position’s market value. That means Marquise Brown is in line to be paid like one of the best receivers in the NFL."
Assuming Samuel and Metcalf sign extensions worth around $25 million annually, Brown can start negotiations at four years, $100 million following a season in which he reaches career highs across multiple receiving categories. Brown could also command north of $42 million in guarantees, which would currently land him on the low end of the top 10 among wideouts in guaranteed compensation, per Over The Cap.
If Murray signs a massive extension this offseason, he'll likely have some influence over what happens with Brown in 2023. With that said, the Cardinals probably wouldn't flip a first-round pick for a one-year rental unless they don't get enough return on their investment.
With a strong possibility that Murray rekindles an aerial bond with his former college teammate, Brown will reap the benefits and take it all the way to the bank.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.