Marshall Plan: Worth the Gamble?

Statistically, the Jay-Cutler-to-Brandon-Marshall connection worked wonders in Denver. And since Marshall could very soon be a former Bronco just like Cutler, should the Chicago Bears roll the dice and reunite the two? Bear Report weighs the pros and cons of making another bold move.

Yesterday, we covered the idea of potentially bringing Plaxico Burress to Chicago since the Bears are in desperate need of a No. 1 receiver – Click Here to read that column, by the way.

Once you lay all the cards on the table, I'm simply not convinced that it's a good idea. Not only is Burress in a heap of trouble off the field and staring a suspension in the face once the Commissioner decides to interact, but he's soon to be 32 years old, hasn't practiced much in recent seasons because of all kinds of nagging injuries, and doesn't appear to be a good fit for what has been a fairly united locker room recently. Even if only for a one-year deal, Burress would be a mistake in my opinion.

If the Monsters of the Midway are indeed serious about upgrading their receiving corps – and not just for 2009, but for the foreseeable future – maybe they should go ahead and reunite Jay Cutler with his favorite target from Denver: Brandon Marshall.


Marshall reeled in 104 passes this past season.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Makes sense, doesn't it? Marshall is only 25 years old, coming off back-to-back seasons of 100-plus catches, and knows what it's like to be on the other end of all those Cutler cannon shots. At 6-4 and 230 pounds, he may be the physical presence needed opposite Devin Hester that could make the Windy City passing attack a force to be reckoned with in today's game. With Marshall consistently picking up a fresh set of downs on short- and intermediate-range routes, Hester can concentrate on big plays down the field and go back to being the heart-stopping game changer that made him so much fun to watch his first two years. Hester is ill-equipped to be a primary weapon in the NFL, while Marshall has already proven to be one of the best.

However, as always tends to be the case when it comes to premier pass catchers, Marshall has a laundry list of character concerns that makes him as much of a risk as Burress – maybe even more.

While still a student-athlete at Central Florida, Marshall was arrested on Halloween for assaulting a police officer. He was present at the tragic nightclub shooting in Denver that resulted in the death of Broncos teammate Darrent Williams, and it's believed that the shooter was seeking revenge after an altercation with Marshall's cousin earlier that evening. The Pro Bowler has a history of domestic-violence issues, with Douglas County officials saying they've fielded "about 11" calls to his home since January 2006, according to the Rocky Mountain News. He was charged with DUI, later pleading guilty to a lesser crime and being placed on probation. Then he was arrested again just this past March for disorderly conduct after allegedly getting into a fight with this fiancee – the charges were dropped the next day.

"As always tend to be the case when it comes to premier pass catchers, Marshall has a laundry list of character concerns that makes him as much of a risk as Burress – maybe even more."

And now, just like Cutler previously, Marshall is unhappy with the way things are going in Mile High and wants a trade out of town.

When word spread around the league that Cutler could be available, general manager Jerry Angelo had to pick up the phone even though head coach Lovie Smith was happy with what Kyle Orton was able to do the first half of 2008 – before he injured an ankle midseason, tried to come back too soon, and struggled for the balance of the schedule. Angelo pounded his fist that games are ultimately won and lost at the quarterback position, although his comments were greeted with somewhat of a chuckle from the gathered media since the Bears haven't sent a passer to the Pro Bowl since Katrina and the Waves were "Walking on Sunshine." After trotting out the likes of Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel and Chad Hutchinson during Smith's rookie campaign in '04, now Angelo finally understood the value of an elite signal caller?

But then Angelo made the Cutler deal reality. Suddenly the Windy City press was sounding like Bill and Ted on another excellent adventure: "Whoa."


Marshall could be more of a risk than Burress.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Could Angelo shock the football world yet again and nab Marshall? Not only would Cutler then have his favorite college wideout (Earl Bennett) to throw to, but his previous relationship with Marshall would likely pick up right where it left off in Denver. With Marshall and Hester out wide, Bennett moving inside to the slot, and a budding star in Greg Olsen occupying the hash-mark area, suddenly Matt Forte isn't seeing many eight-man fronts.

After all, the Bears "get off the bus running the football" – right, Lovie?

The problem is, Angelo likely doesn't have enough ammunition to entice the Broncos with yet another blockbuster deal. Denver already has Chicago's first-round draft pick in 2010 thanks to the Cutler trade, and it's going to take more than a second-rounder to land Marshall. If a player is going to be included in the swap, it's not going to be an easily-replaceable piece like Nathan Vasher. It's going to have to be a difference maker like Lance Briggs. For a defense that's been living off reputation alone for two years now, that's asking way too much.

And even if Angelo could turn water into wine and bring in what may be Terrell Owens Version 2.0 for a reasonable price, Marshall has the makings of a ticking time bomb – just like T.O.

At least with Burress, the financial commitment would be palatable since he's going to be suspended for a spell and has already cashed some serious checks in his time. Marshall, on the other hand, primarily wants out of Denver because he's looking to get paid. Handing an eight-figure signing bonus to someone with his penchant for finding trouble may be an unmitigated disaster, even if he could catch another 100 balls from Cutler his first year in Chicago.

If Angelo has visions of the Vince Lombardi Trophy dancing in his head and wants to go for broke unequivocally in 2009, rolling the dice for one year with Burress makes more sense than backing up a five-year money truck for Marshall.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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