NFL Free Agency: Why The Seahawks' Pursuit of Brandon Marshall Makes No Sense

Casey McLain@caseymclain34Senior Analyst IMarch 6, 2010

DENVER - OCTOBER 04:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after the final play against the Dallas Cowboys during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 4, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Marshall caught the game winning 51 yard touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys with 2:47 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Broncos defeated the Cowboys 17-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Seahawks are in the market for a disgruntled receiver, with a first round pick as the expected bounty. Where have we heard this before?

When the Seahawks, and then General Manager Tim Ruskell, traded for Deion Branch in 2006, it was a move that foreshadowed the philosophy that has generated today’s mediocrity.

Branch, then a Patriot, wasn’t known for massive production or elite athletic ability. Rather, Branch had produced heavily in two Patriots Super Bowl victories, and won the MVP in Super Bowl XXXIX.

But as the last few years have shown, reputation as a good teammate, solid character, and single-game accolades can only take a player so far.

Not that Branch was a slouch, though. He’d amassed 998 yards the previous season on 78 receptions, and caught five touchdowns. He’d become a favorite target of Tom Brady , and had begun to function very well in the Patriots' offensive scheme.

Eventually though, Branch would become disgruntled with his lack of an extension, despite two enormously productive Super Bowl performances, and one very productive season.

The Patriots—who have shown that the farther from the trenches a player plays, the less inclined they are to sign that player on for a long-term, lucrative contract—didn’t value Branch as a unique talent (like Randy Moss ), and traded him after several weeks of Branch holding out.

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Branch’s skill set appeared to directly translate to what most talent evaluators look for in West Coast Offense receivers. However, his lack of familiarity with the West Coast offense, paired with time spent away from game-speed action, caused his transition to stumble out of the gates.

Brandon Marshall is almost the complete opposite of Branch.

But one extreme isn’t always better than its opposite, just ask the Democrats (or at least my liberal friends).  

The truth is, Marshall in an unquestionably-unique athlete. He’s been extremely productive in the West Coast offense, and even had success in Josh McDaniels scheme—fundamentally the same as the one Branch had his most productive season in.

Truth is, on physical talent alone, Marshall belongs in the discussion with Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald , and Randy Moss as one of the best receivers in the league.

Of the three in the discussion, only Moss has had off-the-field issues. Moss’ famed marijuana use , along with his even more famous—erm—driving ability , have contributed to his reputation off the field.

On the field, his effort has been repeatedly questioned. He’s all-but-admitted to dogging it with the Raiders , and even in some of his most productive seasons with his original teams, the ultra-talented wide receiver was criticized for “alligator arms” going over the middle.

But Marshall is a different animal.

Apart from his role, and eventual regret, in the Darrent Williams shooting, Marshall has had some serious legal issue off the field. He’s been arrested at least five times since entering the league in 2006. Between DUI and domestic violence, Marshall has developed quite a reputation for himself.

And none of this includes his 2004 assault of a law enforcement officer.

Recently, some journalists have speculated that Marshall’s days as a headcase are over, citing his year without an arrest or off-field transgression (since his March 1, 2009 arrest for an apparent fight with his fiancé in Atlanta ). Others cite his emotional recovery from the horrifying shooting of his teammate.

But Marshall’s behavior has plagued his football career before and after the Williams shooting. And quite frankly, the reprehensible act of striking a female deserves no justification, be it emotional or not.

That doesn’t even factor in his issue with authority. Apart from the 2004 incident, Marshall publicly upstaged Josh McDaniels regularly last season. Marshall did everything he could to broadcast his dissatisfaction in Denver —from asking for a trade, to practice incidents caught on camera, 

It is time for us, the American public, and especially the Seattle Seahawks fanbase, to recognize that Marshall may just be a bad person.

He’s a malicious criminal, a repeat offender, and a potential locker room cancer on a team that is already struggling in the leadership department.

And while Adam Jones and Michael Vick had similarly long and violent rap sheets, their second chances have come on short-term, inexpensive contracts. Marshall would likely sign a much larger extension. 

Moss found his productive home in New England under Bill Belichick. McDaniels came from the same coaching tree but wasn’t able to reign in the volatile Marshall.

Even Moss’ former teammate, and future hall-of-famer Cris Carter needed a change of scenery (from Philadelphia to Minnesota ) to achieve his potential. Carter didn’t achieve his full level of production until the Vikings coaching job was taken by disciplinarian Dennis Green.

Needless to say, especially with his own recruiting transgressions and alleged marital infidelity, Pete Carroll is far from a stellar parallel to the other two coaches.

Even if Marshall gets along with Jeremy Bates and Jedd Fisch, Carroll will ultimately be the man to build the walls within which Marshall would have to live.

He may not be up to that task.

From a football standpoint, if the Seahawks sign Marshall to an offer sheet, the Broncos will have the opportunity to match the contract, or the Seahawks would have to surrender their sixth overall pick as compensation based on the Broncos tender offer to Marshall.

And on production alone, an established, not-yet 26-year-old, player at any position is more than equal compensation for the sixth overall pick.

And it’s entirely possible that Marshall’s extension, in terms of both guarantees and total dollars, will be less than the sixth pick receives in what seems likely to be the last year the NFL draft goes without a rookie slotting system.

Last year Darrius Heyward-Bey, the first receiver taken (drafted seventh overall), signed a five-year, $38.25 million contract with $23.75 million in guarantees. Andre Smith, drafted sixth, signed a six-year, $42 million deal with $21 million in guarantees.

Recently traded (and far less problematic, though older and injury-prone) receiver Anquan Boldin just signed a four-year, $28 million contract (as of now the guarantees are unclear). Boldin was also only traded for third and fourth round picks, with a fifth rounder going to Baltimore with him.

Last year, top free agent and Seattle signee T.J. Houshmandzadeh signed a five-year, $40 million with $15 million in guarantees.

The money and sixth overall pick, even if Marshall was a model citizen, would significantly deviate from what the market for a top-receiver-talent has been set at. That stated, a simple offer-sheet signing is very unlikely.

More likely, and without an offer imminent, the Seahawks would have to negotiate a contract with Marshall and a trade with the Broncos simultaneously.

Much like the too-conservative (in terms of character and athletic "bust" potential) approach that Tim Ruskell had, a distinctly-opposite approach could have the same negative result.

The compensation, both financial and in terms of draft picks, and the distinct possibility that by way of suspension Marshall will miss some games, he’s too much of a risk for this team.

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