It has been a roller coaster journey of ups and downs for Denver Broncos inside linebacker Brandon Marshall. Originally a fifth round selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 NFL Draft, Marshall endured a series of cuts and releases during his rookie season by the Jaguars. He played in five games as a rookie, but wasn’t a part of Jacksonville’s future plans and was given his final walking papers in August of 2013. Little did the Jaguars know that Marshall would transform into a quality NFL starter and become an integral part of Denver’s vaunted defense that helped secure the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy.
Shortly after he was out of Jacksonville for good, Marshall signed a deal with Denver and became a member of their practice squad where he remained for almost the entire season. On Christmas Eve of the 2013 campaign, Marshall finally got his chance to showcase his talent and was promoted to the active roster after Von Miller was placed on season-ending injured reserve due to an ACL tear suffered against the Houston Texans. While the Broncos’ season ended up in a devastating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the beginning of something great was about to happen for Marshall.
In his third season in the NFL, he was provided another opportunity to due to injury. Marshall had shown enough in training camp to make the team as a back-up linebacker, but when former Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan went down with a season-ending injury — he ended up becoming a starter. And you know what? The Broncos defense didn’t miss a beat. Marshall played extremely well in place of Trevathan and has a career season registering 113 tackles, two sacks, 9 passes defended an interception and a forced fumble. That success continued into the 2015 where Marshall had another fantastic season and played a vital role in the team’s championship run.
Back-to-back years of quality play on the gridiron earned Marshall a four-year extension in 2016, but the past two seasons have shown some drop off in his overall game. His 2016 season was marred with injuries and he participated in just eleven games and only registered 52 tackles. The injury bug continued for Marshall this past season, and it was reported that he played the entire 2017 campaign with a torn rotator cuff. Even so, he was still able to register over 100 tackles.
Brandon Marshall’s 2017 Grade from Pro Football Focus
According to Pro Football Focus, Marshall’s overall grade in 2017 was 54.6 — which ranks in the poor category. Out of 103 qualifying linebackers, he placed in the middle of the pack at 57th overall. Even with being injured, Marshall was on the field for 92 percent of the team’s defensive snaps (909 plays overall.)
Based on my post-game observations throughout the course of the past year, it appears that the biggest issue with Marshall has been decreased productivity in coverage, though he remains solid against the run. There is no doubt in my mind that if Marshall wasn’t dealing with several injuries over the past few seasons, that he would have had much better production.
Brandon Marshall Contract Outlook
Marshall carries a $7 million cap hit in 2018. $5 million of that total becomes guaranteed if he is on the roster at the beginning of the league year in March. The Broncos would incur a lot of dead money if they ended up cutting him at any point this season.
Brandon Marshall’s 2018 Status
As of right now, Marshall is the only veteran linebacker under contract for the 2018 season. Even though his production has decreased the past two seasons, it would be foolish of the Broncos to get rid of him considering the lack of depth and long-term options available at the position. However, the Broncos do have the ability to void his contract with team options in 2019 and 2020 — so it’s quite possible he will be off the books after this year to help create cap space if he doesn’t perform at a high level. That being said, I would expect Denver to use a premium selection in the 2018 NFL Draft to prepare for his possible departure down the road.