NFL free agency's opening gun hasn't even been fired, and the New York Jets look like one of the offseason's biggest winners thanks to a no-brainer of a trade with the Chicago Bears for wideout Brandon Marshall.
NFL Network's Albert Breer shared the details of Friday's transaction:
Talk about a bargain for the Jets.
It was a badly kept secret that Chicago and new coach John Fox wanted to trade Marshall, 30, if not to create cap savings, then to remove a vocal minority of the locker room to improve chemistry.
What do the Jets surrender? Smartly given Chicago's dire straits, a fifth-round pick, not exactly a critical resource over the course of the last few years:
- 2014: Jeremiah George, linebacker
- 2013: Oday Aboushi, offensive tackle
- 2012: Traded
- 2011: Jeremy Kerley, wide receiver
- 2010: John Conner, fullback
The list could go on, but the point is simple: The Jets score a top-tier wideout in one heck of a deal.
Marshall's numbers strictly from his Chicago years are noteworthy in that they showcase a reliance and productivity that have been missing in New York for quite some time:
|*Marshall missed three games in 2014.|
A No. 1 wideout in every sense of the word, Marshall is also a rather cheap option. He represents a $7.7 million cap hit this year, per Spotrac, a number that rises to no higher than $8.5 million over the course of the final two years after.
This opens up the Pandora's box that is getting out of Percy Harvin's contract, considering he's due $10.5 million in 2015 and a minimum of $9.9 million in each of the three seasons after, per Spotrac.
As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport points out, this development is already very much on the table:
Forget money, though, and just consider what changes when it comes to the on-field dynamic.
Regardless of who lines up under center, New York's offense already improves with Marshall on the depth chart. Last year, Harvin only caught 29 passes for 350 yards and one score.
Eric Decker, the pseudo-No. 1, was targeted a team-high 115 times, which only turned into 74 catches for 962 yards and five touchdowns. It should go without saying that Decker is better off as the No. 2, as he showed over the course of his tenure with the Denver Broncos.
Nobody is suggesting Decker will net 1,200 receiving yards and 11 or more scores with Marshall occupying defenses' minds, but he'll be better off with less attention and more room to operate within the confines of new coach Todd Bowles' spread attack.
Speaking of Bowles, he has first-hand experience with Marshall thanks to their days together with the Miami Dolphins, another team that attempted to bring on the veteran wideout in the hopes of breathing life into a struggling receiving corps.
The rather large elephant in the room as it pertains to the Jets is the questionable quarterback situation, but Marshall is as reliable as it gets, especially in a spread formation. Only twice in his nine-year career has Marshall's catch rate on a season dipped below 60 percent—and never below 58 percent—per Pro Football Focus.
Believe it or not, Marshall's addition is also a personification of how the new regime in New York wants to approach the rebuild, too. ESPN.com's Rich Cimini puts it best:
This is the first splashy move for the Mike Maccagnan-Todd Bowles regime, a strong indication they will take an aggressive approach to rebuilding a team that finished 4-12. Bowles played an instrumental role in this trade because he's familiar with the enigmatic Marshall, who tends to wear out his welcome because of his "me" personality. Bowles was on the Miami Dolphins' staff during Marshall's two-year run in South Florida and presumably knows what he's getting.
Flexibility is another plus. At No. 6 overall, the Jets are now free to ignore wideout. Maybe they grab a falling quarterback. Marshall is one heck of a consistent option for a developing signal-caller. Maybe they grab defense. Perhaps they nab a deep threat such as West Virginia's Kevin White to round out the corps.
Regardless, Marshall gives the team that breathing room near the top of the order.
Look, this could all blow up in the Jets' face. After all, Marshall is on his fourth different team for a reason, he's going on 31 years old, and he's the guy who infamously and publicly threw Jay Cutler under the bus by saying he'd have "buyer's remorse" concerning the quarterback's contract, per Conor Orr of NFL.com.
If it blows up? Fine—none of Marshall's contract is guaranteed after 2015. He's on a one-year, "prove it" deal. The price tag? A fifth-round pick, the very definition of a low-risk, high-reward maneuver that rebuilding teams must make in order to turn a corner and begin an ascent.
The Jets are on that climb with Marshall now leading the charge, a first big splash by the new regime and a gamble in a number of ways that announces the rebuilding process will take risks to secure better footing for the future.