The New Marshall Plan: Trade Him

Ed Thompson says that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen needs a new Marshall plan and should ship the team's star receiver elsewhere while he still has some trade value.

For the good of the team, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen should jettison his star wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, while he still has some market value.

After skipping the team's mandatory workouts this past week, Marshall was reportedly spotted carrying boxes out to his car following a meeting with Bowlen. Rumors have been circulating for some time that the fourth-year receiver, who is still rehabbing from off-season hip surgery, would like a new contract.

Bowlen recently told ESPN that he and Marshall are on good terms, saying, "I'm very keen on having Brandon play for the Broncos."

While I respect Pat Bowlen and what he's accomplished through his franchise, that simply doesn't make sense to me. He should be putting the irresponsible fourth-year player on the trading block to avoid any more damage to the team's public image and brand.

If it's true that Marshall wants a new deal that would pay him as well as the league's other top receivers, that's simply ridiculous and really bad timing.

By entering into a new contract with Marshall now, Denver would be gambling big bucks on a player who, in just three short years:

  • Has been ordered to get anger management counseling in exchange for having false imprisonment and domestic violence charges dropped. 
  • Has been sentenced to a year of probation after avoiding a likely DUI conviction by entering a guilty plea to driving while ability-impaired (after being pulled over with a reported blood-alcohol level of 0.116 in a state where the legal limit is 0.08).
  • Still has two counts of simple battery charges pending due to alleged violence against former-girlfriend Rasheedah Watley
  • Was suspended by the league for three games in 2008 (which was later reduced to one game after he complied with league requirements that included more counseling).
  • Was arrested in March along with Michi Nogami-Campbell -- just weeks after they were engaged -- by an off-duty police officer who reportedly saw the pair hitting and kicking each other in public.

Here's what the Pro Bowl receiver had to say about his latest brush with the law.

"The judge, the next day, he had the police report, he had all the facts in front of him." Marshall said during a recently televised ESPN interview. "He looked at it and saw that there was no wrong-doing, it was simply an argument, and they got it wrong."

Simply an argument? So the officer didn't see them hitting and kicking each other or Marshall pinning the woman up against a wall? Well, either the officer needs to get glasses and apologize to the Broncos receiver, or Marshall needs to understand that an argument is a verbal exchange, not a physical one.

Marshall's outstanding effort and results on the field are undeniable.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

By other accounts, the charges of disorderly conduct were dropped after both Marshall and Michi Nogami-Campbell refused to press charges against each other, not because the police "got it wrong" as Marshall suggested. 

But maybe that's just the lens through which he sees the world, constantly putting his spin on incidents when his life spins out of control. After all, over the past few years he's had to talk with police officers following run-ins with two different women, his father, an off-duty police officer in a restaurant, and during his arrest as a DUI suspect. Yet through it all, Marshall seems to miss the point that the common denominator in all of his problems has been him.

During his interview with ESPN, Marshall repeatedly shuffled through a stack of papers as though he was seeking a prepared answer to some of the questions being posed. That hit me as odd since he was involved in every single incident. If he wanted to be on camera to simply tell the truth, why did he need to keep referring to those papers?

While I'd be surprised if his former girlfriend has been completely honest about what has transpired between the pair, Marshall brought his honesty further into doubt when he was asked about one specific incident where he allegedly blocked the taxi cab of his former girlfriend with his own vehicle and then pounded on the windows angrily, prompting her to call 911 for help. Her version of the story was reportedly backed up by the cab driver. 

Marshall hesitated a few seconds before replying to the question about whether or not he had pounded on the windows. Then he looked into the camera and claimed that he had "tapped" on the window to get the cab driver's attention because the woman had his cell phone and he wanted it back. 

Right. And that's why he agreed to go to anger management counseling after the incident in exchange for having the false imprisonment and domestic violence charges dropped. That tapping on windows can be pretty scary stuff.

While the league office opted not to suspend Marshall for his most recent arrest, you may want to jot down his reaction to that decision. I have a feeling these words will be coming back to haunt him, especially if he and his bride-to-be can't find a more civil way to "argue" than they did in Atlanta.

Former Broncos QB Jay Cutler vented his frustrations about Marshall prior to the start of the 2008 season.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"Getting straight to the point, I understand that there can't be any more hiccups from me. With that said, I guarantee, repeat, I guarantee there won't be any more from this day forward," Marshall reportedly told Denver radio station KDVR. "I'm thankful to the league and their findings today, but this is also a continuance of me looking into the mirror and growing into the man I know I should be."

Former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler realized that Marshall's immaturity was a big problem for the team last year, sharing his candid thoughts with the media after the receiver sustained a very serious cut that severed tendons in his arm. Marshall claimed that he had fallen into a television set while fooling around with his brother, an incident that he referenced as a wake-up call.

"He's had many wakeup calls," Cutler said last April. "I mean, he's been in [head coach Mike] Shanahan's office many times. I've been up there with him. He said the same thing, 'this is a wakeup call, this is the last thing that's going to happen. Blah blah blah.' I mean, until he goes out and proves it, we'll see what happens."

While Cutler didn't particularly think that Marshall was a bad person, "It's just something about him. He's always into something," he said.

With all the distraction and negative publicity that Marshall has brought to the Broncos organization in just three short years, Bowlen should tell the team's general manager, Brian Xanders, to make a few phone calls this week and find the most advantageous way to banish the receiver from Denver. The damage that Marshall has done to the team through choices he's made have tarnished an otherwise highly-respected organization. Continuing to ignore his repeated off-the-field problems sends a message that the team's public image is worth less than the allure of another 100-catch season.

And that's a shame.

Marshall isn't likely to catch 100 passes with Kyle Orton at quarterback anyway. And having him run routes along with squeaky-clean types like Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley magnifies the difference between Marshall and the kind of people and players the Broncos organization usually tries to showcase.

Bowlen should raise his team's conduct standard to reflect the league's personal conduct policy that states: "It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has already made bold and difficult decisions, such as firing Mike Shanahan and trading Jay Cutler.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

That statement is pretty clear. I don't see an asterisk or waiver for a player like Marshall just because he has caught 226 passes for 2,899 yards and 15 touchdowns during his three-year career. And rather than waiting to see if the league will slap Marshall with more penalties after his pending assault trial, Bowlen should make a statement to everyone associated with the organization that they have no room on their roster for players who are magnets for trouble. The distractions to the team and the damage to the team's brand isn't worth it.

Bowlen could also send a message to Marshall that might help him turn his life around, much like the Vikings did when they traded malcontent Randy Moss to the hapless Oakland Raiders a few years ago. Moss withered into anonymity in Oakland, leaving him pining for a better opportunity. And when he finally got it through a trade to New England, Moss became a better person and player. He had obviously learned a valuable life lesson during his exile.

Xanders' first phone calls for potential trade partners should be Detroit and St. Louis, a pair of rebuilding teams that won a combined total of two games last year. If Marshall does believe that he's worth more than the nearly $2.2 million he's scheduled to earn this year -- despite all of his baggage -- let him prove it with one of those teams.

Some of the other teams who might be willing put an attractive offer on the table for Marshall are the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Earlier this year, Jay Cutler was traded after showing his disdain and lack of trust in the Broncos' new head coach, Josh McDaniels. Rumors indicated that McDaniels was willing to swap Cutler in a multi-team deal that would have brought Matt Cassel to Denver, and Cutler took exception to the notion in a very public forum.  Bowlen responded appropriately and boldly as the team worked out a trade with the Chicago Bears, eliminating a huge distraction for his club this year.

And that's what makes his hesitance to part ways with Marshall even more puzzling.

Bowlen would be wise to move Marshall now while he still has some perceived trade value. Because after Marshall's next screw-up, Denver's pool of potential trade partners will shrink even further.

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