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Land of the Restricted is Tough Going for Brandon Marshall

How about a story that's NOT about Brandon Marshall?  Sounds nice, but not likely.  Marshall is the big name still swimming in the free agent waters, even though he's restricted.  Much of the talk last week was the Broncos decision to extend a qualifying offer to Marshall that required a 1st Round pick in return should a team decide to sign Marshall to an offer sheet.  Teams would be lining up to try and screw the Broncos for their desperation was the opinion of many.

The weekend came, the weekend went.  The result?  A fancy splashdown landing in Seattle for Marshall in what was termed a 'get to know you' session between Marshall and the Seattle Seahawks.  Cue the 'Price is Right' music when someone loses.

No one is really wrong in all of this because no one really knew what the market would hold for Marshall.  In the new world of the uncapped NFL, we've a little bit of everything, and nothing, all at the same time.   We have certainly found out now, and for those that thought teams would be lining up to try and get Marshall, well, surprise!

So what happened?  Let's investigate.

Brandon Marshall is an incredible talent.  We all know that - the NFL knows that.  There is, however, a perception around the League that skill position players are worth less the further they are from the ball.  The Patriots are big believers in that.  What does that mean?

Don't  turn the exception into the rule.  Larry Fitzgerald is a stud.  We all know that.  You pay for the elite.  After that upper echelon, however, receivers all kind of fall into place.  Need proof?  Look at the Week 17, when Kyle Orton threw for a career high 431 yards.  Jabar Gaffney caught 14 passes for 213 yards.  If the names were Cutler to Marshall instead of Orton to Gaffney, fans would be gushing.  All this happened, of course, with Marshall and another 'weapon', Tony Scheffler, sitting at home.

The end result was a loss, of course, a 20-point embarrassment at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs.  There was a similar result, a double-digit loss, when Marshall caught 21 passes against the Indianapolis Colts.  Sure, a 12-point loss to the AFC Champs is better than a 20 point loss at home to the Chiefs, but only to us fans.  They count the same in the standings, and both equally cost the Broncos a playoff spot.

You don;t think teams are looking at that, or consider that in their on-field philosophies?  You have a right to your opinion, but the crickets you hear coming from the Brandon Marshall news-wire should.give you some indication.

There is the water-plane landing in Seattle, with the hug shown-'round the world between Marshall and Pete Carroll.  The Seahawks, of course, have no desire to give the Broncos the 6th pick in the Draft.  Why Not?  Think about it.  300+ catches the past 3 years, Pro Bowls, NFL Records?  What player can the Seahawks get with that resume? Even with little to no competition for Marshall's services, why would Seattle give an unproved college guy all that cash when they can give it to a 'proven' commodity?

Unless you're elite, or the Oakland Raiders, receivers simply aren't valued like that. 

Of course, there is also Marshall's off-field history which has to get considered.  Remember, Pete Carroll is a players' coach.  He's loose, likes to have a good time.  Is that the best scenario for a guy like Marshall?  It's a recipe for disaster if you ask me.  Marshall needs tough love - the kind the Broncos showed him.  He has said as much.  Going to work for Coach Country Club may not be such a good idea.

So where are all the other teams?  Easy.  They are all accounted for.  Let's start with Cincinnati.  It was reported yesterday that the Bengals were looking into making an offer to Marshall.  Let's set aside the fact that  Mike Brown is cheap.  They didn't want to pay a talented receiver they had in T.J. Houshmanzadeh, why would the throw the cash at Marshall?

There is talk that this was simply a smokescreen.  A can partially go along with that, but not by the Broncos to drive up the price for Marshall.  I could see Marshall's camp, via Brandon's Agent, to try and create a market for Marshall to try and force the Broncos into a panic move.  Word is the Seahawks would rather trade something along the line of a 2nd and 4th for Marshall.  Even if the Seahawks are trying to make it the 14th pick, why should the Broncos settle?  That is, unless another team, with a lower pick in the 1st Round, is making a move for Marshall.  Too bad it is too easy to see the forest through the trees with the Bengals.  Mike Brown is not going to throw $40 or $50 million at Brandon Marshall.

What about another team?  There are always a few teams that ignore off-field issues and bring guys in.  Each has a reason, however, why Marshall is not likely to be in their plans.

1.  Oakland Raiders -  The Raiders don't care about a guy's reputation and they have no problem over-paying for a Wide Receiver.  They drafted Darius Heyward-Bey long before anyone thought he would go in last year's draft, and signed Javon Walker to a HUGE contract - $55 million worth - even though he had missed 12 games the year before.    The Raiders, of course, are not going to send a 1st Round pick to the Broncos.  Al Davis is not likely to deal with the Broncos in such a large scale, despite making a deal with Denver a couple of years ago for Gerard Warren.

2.  Dallas Cowboys - Jerry Jones has no problem spending money, and his previous signings of Pac-Man Jones and Tank Johnson, along with Terrell Owens, proves he'll take a chance on talent.  Problem is, the Cowboys have spent the past couple of years getting rid of those types of guys - going more for character instead of tabloid headlines.  Add to that how the 'Boys were robbed blind by the Lions for WR Roy Williams, and the emergence of good-guy Mile Austin, and the Cowboys have little need for the headaches that might come along with Marshall.

3.  Washington Redskins - Daniel Snyder can buy anything - and anyone - he wants.  He never has really cared much for Draft Picks.  With the arrival of Bruce Allen, the latter might change.  What hurts Marshall, however, is the arrival of Mike Shanahan.  It has been reported numerous times that Shanahan was looking to dump Marshall after the 2008 season.  Shanny was fired, of course, before getting the chance.  While those facts have been disputed, the Redskins' absence from the Marshall 'sweepstakes' says it all. 

4.  Baltimore Ravens - That was the popular pick as a landing spot for Marshall.  They are on the cusp of being Super Bowl ready and have a huge need at WR.  Instead of Marshall, however, the Ravens went for cheaper, older and just as talented Anquon Boldin.  The Ravens gave up a 3rd and 4th round pick for Boldin and a 5th rounder from Arizona.  The Ravens then signed Boldin to a 3-year, $25 million deal($10 million guaranteed.  Interestingly enough, it is the same type of deal I think Marshall is worth - 3-years, $27 million($13.5 million guaranteed).  Yes, Boldin is older and has some injury concern but his only off-field issue came from unhappiness with his contract. 

Cut those 4 teams out of the mix, and the pickings become slim.  Sure, a team like the Patriots, who tried to get Boldin as well, could make a surprise move, but with Moss already on board, and a youth movement on-going, why would Bill Belchick bring more question marks into his locker room?

Marshall has said, as recently as yesterday, that he is still open to returning to Denver.  Josh McDaniels has said the same thing.  The actions of both have said something different all-together.  The reality of it is, however, unless something surprising happens, both men may just get what they have publicly stated and privately abhorred - another year together in Denver.