Another wild weekend in Broncos Country. June is supposed to be a dead zone when it comes to the NFL. Sure, there are OTAs, some minicamp workouts and a slow trickle of draft-pick signings, but usually we are counting the days until late July and Training Camp. Not in Denver, where each week has seemingly brought a new dilemma.
This past weekend saw Denver's mandatory minicamp overshadowed by the official beginning of a Brandon Marshall holdout. Immediately, Broncos fans everywhere, in unison, said "Here we go again". With many fans still stinging from the Jay Cutler trade, a potential Brandon Marshall divorce has many fans on the ledge anxiously waiting to see whether they will jump. Rest easy Broncos fans, or at least know the facts before making your fateful decision.
First, let's just stop comparing what is happening with Brandon Marshall and what went down with Cutler. This is a completely different deal, with completely different motivations. There is plenty all over this site describing what went down with Cutler, so we won't dig up the dead horse to beat it again. With Marshall, however, here are my thoughts on what is happening and what the resolution will be...Yes, Brandon Marshall is choosing to stay away, "hold out" if you will, and yes, I think it is a horrible mistake. It's easy to blame Josh McDaniels or the Broncos, especially with everything that has transpired this offseason. This situation, however, has very little to do with McDaniels and the Broncos, and everything to do with a player looking to cash in.
I can't say I really disagree with Marshall's action, at least the idea of wanting a new deal. There is a lot of uncertainty in terms of labor negotiations, and with Marshall on and off the field. While all the players involved in the CBA seem to be saying the right things, talking of how positive they are that a deal will get done, no one in the NFL can rest easy until it happens. Guys like Marshall are in an unenviable position. Instead of looking forward to UNRESTRICTED Free Agency and the riches it could hold, if the league goes uncapped guys like Marshall would have to play 2 extra years under RESTRICTED status before gaining their freedom. In a violent sport, where your career could end on any given play, 32 games + preseason + practices = huge risk.
Of course, Marshall carries two other risks as well. First, there are the off-field transgressions. No matter what the outcome, no matter what the real truth is, Marshall has a stigma around him and is a speeding ticket away from missing significant time due to suspension. Like it or not, fair or not, the Broncos HAVE TO TAKE the off-field risks involving Marshall into account when considering the type of investment Marshall's on-field play would demand.
If that weren't enough, Marshall has ON-FIELD risks as well. The double-whammy. Marshall has now spent the past two offseasons rehabbing from serious injuries instead of getting ready to play football. There is a difference. To Marshall's credit, his performance last year coming off the arm injury was amazing, considering the fact he missed most of the offseason work, and the first game of the season. This year, however, it is a troublesome hip that required surgery. Until Brandon goes full speed, we really won't know if the injury will have any lasting effects. Like the off-field risks, the Broncos HAVE TO TAKE the injury concerns into account when considering the type of investment Marshall's on-field play would demand.
By themselves, each risk would be enough to give a team cause for concern. Any deal with Marshall comes with both. A huge risk, indeed.
Marshall and his representatives know all of this as well. They knew it would look nuts for him to hold out with such a cloud surrounding him. Their solution? Blame the Broncos medical staff for misdiagnosing Marshall's hip problems. By blaming the Broncos, Marshall is trying to cancel out the injury concerns, by basically telling the Broncos he will rehab on his own unless the Broncos give him some guarantees (money). On paper, it makes sense. If the Broncos want Brandon Marshall to entrust his future in the hands of the Denver medical staff, he wants the Broncos to entrust him with a new deal. Because the pieces fit so well together, I have a hard time believing Brandon's explanation, at least in terms of the two MRIs.
Does that mean Marshall is lying? Not necessarily. Marshall says he received an MRI before the season, then again around Week 6. He was told everything was fine, and played the rest of the year. For 10 more games, Marshall played at a solid level. The pressure was there to play of course, with the Broncos battling for the playoffs, and players play hurt all the time. Injured players do not, however, and we'll never know for sure which category Brandon fell into.
Don't forget that Marshall was scrutinized his rookie year by Mike Shanahan for nursing a quad injury. Shanahan essentially called Marshall out to the media. Marshall came back and played well before the knee injury forced him out of the preseason. Whether Marshall was motivated by that, or if Shanny was unsure of how injured Marshall really was, the fact remains that Marshall played.
There are other motivations for Marshall to get paid now, and it does have to do with the new coach. Marshall did put up huge numbers the past two years, and he is as talented as anyone. Don't forget, however, that no receiver was targeted more than #15 was last season, and Jay Cutler would lock onto Marshall, to a fault, in most key situations. One thing we know about Josh McDaniels, the ball is going to get spread around. Add to it the change at QB, and it is highly unlikely that Marshall puts up the type of numbers in 2009, his contract year, that he did in 2007 and 2008. Marshall knows this, and his people know that teams are looking for every reason NOT to pay someone.
Brandon Marshall stands to lose money in either case.
Let's say everything falls into place in 2009 for Marshall. He plays, the CBA gets done AND Marshall puts up huge numbers. The Broncos could easily tag Marshall, make him their franchise player, and keep him for another year. Sure, Marshall would get a huge raise, but he would still be without the long-term security players covet, he'd be a year older, with whatever wear and tear he absorbed in 2009, and still carrying the 'off-field issues' cloud along with him.
There really isn't a situation, other than a huge contract extension now, in which Marshall comes out a winner. A tough situation, indeed, but completely part of the business of football.
So, all that in mind, Brandon decided to stay away from minicamp. He discussed his situation with Pat Bowlen, and left carrying several boxes. That led several in the MSM to proclaim Marshall may have played his last game as a Bronco. Those boxes, of course, were not his locker belongings, but likely his mail.
Let's face the facts. Brandon Marshall was not going to practice this weekend anyway, and Marshall knows that the off-field cloud is not going to leave him anytime soon. The only real way for Brandon Marshall to get what he wants (money), is to come into camp healthy and ready to go. The Broncos may fine Marshall $35K, chump change for a player that will make $2.2 million and move on. This won't become a circus like the Cutler deal, and Marshall will report for camp and play football, because it is the only way he can get what he wants.
Of course, there are now reports circulating that Brandon Marshall wants to be traded and let his wishes be known to Pat Bowlen on Friday. People will say that the way the Broncos handled the Jay Cutler situation has given other players the formula for getting out of town. Note to Marshall -- the rules for QBs are a bit different. See (Johnson, Chad). The Broncos can let you rot on the sidelines. Marshall has no leverage.
I know as Broncos fans we are all on edge. I know the last thing we all wanted to see was another offensive weapon disgruntled. These things happen in the NFL, however, and the best thing for the Broncos and us to do is sit back, stay calm, and let things work themselves out on their own. #15 will be in town when it counts.