New Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has announced his presence with authority, opening NFL free agency with a spectacular and surprising move that not only fills his team's biggest need but also gives quarterback Jay Cutler everything he could possibly want.
Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, acquired moments ago from the Miami Dolphins for a pair of third-round draft picks, is the legitimate No. 1 receiver the Bears have been seeking for almost a decade. Their last 1,000-yard receiver was Marty Booker in 2002, and that span of nine consecutive years without one is the longest active streak in the NFL, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Marshall is also close friends with Cutler, dating back to their wildly successful days with the Denver Broncos from 2006-08. In 2008, Cutler targeted Marshall on 179 passes, the most of any quarterback-receiver combination since then. Cutler has spoken openly this offseason about his desire for a No. 1 receiver and mentioned Marshall specifically. Most of us considered it a pipedream. Why would the Dolphins part ways with one of the game's best receivers, one who is 27 and under contract through 2014?
That's a question we'll probe at some point. But the Dolphins' loss is the Bears' gain. Marshall's arrival will complete an offensive restructuring that was obviously and blatantly designed to get the most from Cutler. Don't forget their decision earlier this winter to hire quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, Cutler's position coach in Denver and a longtime friend and confidant of the quarterback.
We'll have much more on this deal in a bit, which ESPN's Adam Schefter reports will cost the Bears their third-round picks in 2012 and 2013. What a start to free agency here in the NFC North.