A little over a decade ago, the Denver Broncos uncovered a diamond in the rough when they selected a very talented, yet troubled prospect out of the University of Central Florida in the fourth-round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
At the time, this player wasn't regarded as one of the best wide receivers in his class. He had only one year of quality production and was widely considered a one-hit wonder. For some teams, looming character concerns had him crossed off their draft board completely. But that didn't stop the Broncos, in particular Jim Goodman (former Broncos General Manager, Director of Player Personnel and College Scouting) from salivating at the possibility of a 6'4, 230 pound receiver becoming an integral part of Mike Shanahan's powerhouse West Coast offense.
That player was Brandon Marshall.
The learning curve from collegiate football to the NFL is an extraordinarily steep and daunting process for many young players. This is especially true for wide receivers who have so much to learn in respect to running full route trees, understanding more complex offenses and reading defenses. Marshall was rough around the edges, but the Broncos knew that in time, he could grow into something special.
Marshall's rookie season with the Broncos certainly wasn't an exception, but signified the rule. A partially torn PCL caused him to miss several weeks of the pre-season, which undoubtedly led to his struggles early on. But as the year progressed, he flashed the potential of a high-quality receiver with several breath-taking receptions that had fans eager to see what he could do in his second year with the franchise.
Fans hoping for the best from a production standpoint certainly weren't let down. The best was yet to come for Marshall, who cemented himself as one the game's most feared receivers by amassing three consecutive 100 catch and 1,100 yard seasons. After years of waiting, it seemed as if Denver had finally found the wide receiver they had been looking for since Rod Smith hung up his cleats. Alas, Marshall would never have a chance to break into the Broncos' all-time record books.
Although prolific on the field, to state Marshall's years in Denver were marked with controversy would be an understatement. The murder of Darrent Williams and what transpired that night would impact him significantly and stick with Marshall forever. He battled with his teammates and had a highly contentious and strained relationship with current former head coach Josh McDaniels, who benched him early on in the season for conduct detrimental to the team, as well as deactivating him for the 2009 season finale for failing to appear at a mandatory physical training session.
If the New York Jets do indeed release Brandon Marshall, I’d be in favor of him returning to the #Broncos to finish what he started here.— Christopher Hart (@topherhart) January 18, 2017
Despite how talented he was on the field, the off the field incidents and constant headaches he gave the organization were too much to deal with, and Marshall was traded to the Miami Dolphins two weeks prior to the 2010 NFL Draft in exchange for two second-round draft selections.
Marshall didn't last long with the Dolphins, whose behavior and personal issues resulted in him being traded him after two seasons to the Chicago Bears in 2012, where he reunited with former 2006 draft classmate Jay Cutler. The rekindling of their relationship resulted in Marshall posting his best numbers since 2008, but in 2014 the Bears, who also grew tired of his antics, sent Marshall to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.
In his first season with the Jets, Marshall put up some of the best numbers of his career at the age of 30, racking up 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. This past season, due to nagging injuries and a deplorable revolving door situation at quarterback, his production was less than half it was just a year prior. Now various reports are making the rounds that Marshall expects to be released by the Jets this offseason.
Several months ago, Marshall joined Peter King's MMQB podcast and stated that one of his biggest regrets was how things ended in Denver and went on to espouse, "Part of me wishes I had a fifteen year career in Denver and retired right there."
I'm sure that many of us have had similar feelings, and would have loved to see Marshall play his entire career wearing orange and blue. Though that never will be the case, there there is a possibility for him to finish what he started here in Denver if he is indeed cut by the Jets.
In my opinion, there is no question that the Broncos could use an upgrade at wide receiver. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are the only players on the roster who have shown any promise and outside of them, there isn't a legitimate threat at the position. Even at his age, Marshall could be an effective option in the red zone and down the field, and would give team another reliable weapon to help bolster one of the league's worst offenses.
Could you imagine a Broncos' offense with Thomas and Marshall split wide, with Sanders flying down the field in the slot? It's a beautiful to think about and a scenario I hope John Elway would consider if given the opportunity. Marshall may have had his issues in the past, but I'm willing to let bygones be if he is willing to do the same and turn a new leaf in the Mile High city.
So Broncos Country, would you be interested in Marshall coming back to Denver to finish out his career? Give us your thoughts on that possibility in the comments section.