The Brandon Marshall watch is one of the longest and most intriguing storylines in the NFL this offseason.
The story started off hot with a Marshall visit to Seattle on the second day of free agency, but it has been in a holding pattern in the month-plus since.
Marshall, who recently turned 26, is one of the NFL's best wide receivers. Yet, because of several issues, it appears Marshall and the Denver Broncos have reached the end of their relationship.
Marshall is a restricted free agent who was given a first-round tender. The date for signing restricted free agents to an offer sheet is Thursday. So far, Seattle has been the only team to show real interest. There have been rumors and speculation of other teams being interested, but nothing concrete has materialized.
Denver has made it known it wants a first-round pick for Marshall. But if he isn’t signed to an offer sheet, the Broncos may have a difficult time getting their asking price. Denver may have to end up settling for another package, perhaps of existing players, a package of later picks or future picks. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this saga doesn’t conclude until the draft, which begins April 22. Currently, the most likely scenario for this coming to an end is during the second round on April 23. Here's a look at possibilities for Marshall:
Seattle: The Seahawks clearly have interest. They brought Marshall to their facility via a seaplane March 6. Seattle coach Pete Carroll acknowledged late last month that the team has had preliminary talks with Marshall’s agent about a new contract.
Seattle is still interested and must be considered the front-runner to acquire Marshall. I expect Seattle’s interest will continue into the draft, but there are sticking points. The Seahawks are unlikely to surrender the No. 6 or No. 14 pick (acquired from Denver during a draft-day trade last year). Because of a trade for San Diego No. 3 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle now has the No. 60 overall pick in the second-round and not the No. 40 pick. So, Seattle may have to get creative to get Marshall. Perhaps it will give up the No. 60 pick, and another pick in the draft and/or a conditional future pick. If Seattle really wants Marshall, it could even make a trade in which it switches the No. 6 overall pick with Denver’s No. 11 pick as part of a package.
Washington: The Washington Post reported this week that the Redskins still may be in play for Marshall after trading the No. 37 overall pick (and a conditional pick next year) for Donovan McNabb. The Post reasons that the Redskins may want to pair Marshall with McNabb to make a fast run in the NFC East.
It was thought a Marshall deal would be out of the question after the Redskins gave up their second-round pick for McNabb. It would be a shock if the Redskins gave up the No. 4 pick for Marshall. If it wants him, perhaps Washington would be willing to give up their first-round pick in 2011 for Marshall.
It's going to take creativity to make Denver happy if a 2010 first-round pick is not part of the deal. Washington leaders Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen are known for being aggressive. If the Redskins want Marshall, they could go get him.
Other teams: Perhaps a team that drafts late in the first round will decide trading for and giving a large contract to a known commodity such as Marshall is better than giving a big contract to a draft pick. Marshall, a four-year veteran, has 100 or more catches in the past three seasons and is a brilliant talent. The Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Cowboys, Rams (who have the first pick in the second round) and Bengals have all been connected to Marshall, but none has made a move.
Until they do, the Broncos may be stuck and only have to deal with Seattle. Denver must hope that Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant doesn’t fall down the draft board. If Bryant, who is talented but comes with off-field questions, is off the board early in the first round, perhaps one of these aforementioned teams will make a play for Marshall while on the clock.
Staying in Denver: I mention this option last because I think this is the last resort for Denver and Marshall. Both sides want to move on. The Broncos want fair trade value and Marshall wants a fair contract extension.
If neither option develops elsewhere, Denver and Marshall may be stuck with each other. It will be interesting to see what Denver’s breaking point is. If it truly will not take anything less than a 2010 first-round pick, we will know Marshall’s future by the end of the evening on April 22.
Marshall’s PR firm recently put out a statement indicating that Marshall wants a new deal and would be willing to stay in Denver. He asked to be traded before last season and ended up having a productive season. Still, the 2009 season ended with Marshall being benched for the final game of the season (in a game Denver had playoff hopes entering) because the team thought he milked a minor injury he suffered during the practice week leading up to the game. The relationship has not been publicly mended since.
I could see Denver keeping Marshall only if it doesn’t believe it is getting fair trade value. I don’t see Denver giving Marshall a long-term deal right away. Perhaps Denver will decide getting one more productive season out of Marshall before he can leave as unrestricted free agent will be better than getting a second-round pick.