As of late, there have been plenty of rumblings surrounding a potential link between current Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the Baltimore Ravens. I’d say the rumblings are split 50-50 between the daydreaming fans clamoring for a true #1 wide receiver, and comments by Marshall egging those daydreamers on.
Could it happen? Sure.
Should it happen? This naysayer says nay.
While Brandon Marshall may be a stud wide receiver, and may eventually hit the market via free agency or trade, the Ravens should be looking elsewhere to fill the role.
Time to play dream buster.
Got Cap Space? Because the Ravens surely don’t!
Based on current projections, the Ravens are $5.16M over the projected cap of $141.8M. And although this number is likely to improve through cap casualties, contract extensions and what not, Brandon Marshall is set to earn $7.5M per year or more for the next three seasons. Granted he may agree to a slightly more cap friendly deal but you get the picture. The Ravens might have to hire Criss Angel as their capologist.
Putting All of Your Eggs in One Basket. If in fact the Ravens manage to create enough cap space to account for Marshall’s sizeable contract, the likelihood that they’d be able to make any other key acquisitions in free agency is unlikely. Given this team’s need at other key positions (running back, secondary, possibly tight end) the Ravens would either be reliant on the draft to fill those needs, or bringing in lesser (cheaper) talent and hoping for better results, neither of which are ideal.
This is NOT the same as Steve Smith Sr. While both Marshall and Smith Sr. are veterans in the game, the two situations are far from similar. With Smith Sr. you had a 34-year-old player who had fallen out of good graces in Carolina, had a cap hit due to jump up to $12 million by his 37-year-old season, and saved the team a modest cap hit in his departure.
With Marshall, you have a 31-year-old wide receiver who is still top 10 in the game and the 2014 injury aside, has lived up to his contract. So that sweet team-friendly 3 year / $10.5 million dollar deal that Smith Sr. signed with the Ravens? Don’t hold your breath on getting Marshall to agree to a similar contract (if he’s released).
Who said Marshall is getting released? While it’s true the Bears have plenty of places to improve their roster after an embarrassing 5-11 season, it’s also true that they are not short on cap space. Based on current projections, the Bears should have a shade under $24 million to spend in free agency, which is enough to make some solid acquisitions. And while many look at Marshall’s 2014 year as a down year or possibly Father Time catching up to the veteran, looking at his cumulative 3 years in Chicago against other wide receivers in the NFL, Marshall is 9th in yards (3,524), 4th in receptions (279), and 3rd in touchdowns (31). Do you really think the Bears are interested in cutting a player with that much talent so that they can eat more money to watch him play for another team?
Ozzie Loves Draft Picks. So if Marshall is too valuable to be released, what if the Bears make him available for trade? As previously mentioned, he’s still worth every penny of his remaining contract, and could generate a very nice return in a trade. How nice? Look at the previous 2 times Marshall has been traded: in 2010 Marshall was traded to the Dolphins for a pair of 2nd round picks, then he was traded in 2012 to the Bears for a pair of 3rd round picks. While the trend appears to value Marshall at a pair of 4th rounders, I’d venture to say the Bears would covet a 3rd and a 4th, which is ironically the same thing the Ravens traded to the Cardinals for Anquan Boldin back in 2010 (with a 5th rounder coming back to Baltimore as well). So assuming he’s valued at a 3rd and a 4th, if not more, would the Ravens pull the trigger?
Can the Ravens handle the polarizing personality? While Marshall seems to have turned a corner with his off-field issues, he’s still a ticking time bomb on the field and in the locker room. Last year Marshall focused his energy on QB Jay Cutler, allegedly calling him out in the locker room after a loss to the Dolphins, then using the phrase ‘buyer’s remorse’ in regards to Cutler when speaking to the media later in the season. Meanwhile in Baltimore, Coach Harbs and the Ravens have been working hard to get the ‘me-first’ culture out of the locker room. And yes, I realize Smith Sr. had the same bit of crazy that Marshall has on the field, but Smith has done a great job keeping his emotions in check both with his teammates and with the media.
So do the Ravens roll the dice again and hope Marshall can follow in the footsteps of Smith Sr. and control his emotions and mouth?
All issues aside, Brandon Marshall would absolutely improve this offense; but at the end of the day, the money is the biggest issue.
Even if the Ravens can create the cap space, adding Brandon Marshall’s heavy cap hit over the next 3 years would inhibit the Ravens flexibility in free agency, especially looking ahead to 2016 when Flacco’s contract jumps exponentially, and Jimmy Smith becomes a free agent.
With no available cap space at the moment, the Ravens are handcuffed and unable to address other positions of need, primarily the devastatingly inept and injury prone secondary, which should be the main focus this offseason.
And while it can be said that the Ravens have a tendency to find the diamond in the rough, relying on the scrap heap is not an ideal position to be in, even if it means adding a player of Brandon Marshall’s caliber.