- David Haugh at ‘the Chicago Tribune summarizes everyone’s fears about Brandon Marshall with this quote:
“Rasheedah Watley has known Brandon Marshall since he was 12 and laughed when I asked her Wednesday if the Bears can change Marshall in ways the Broncos or Dolphins couldn’t.
“’It’s very foolish to think that,’ said Watley, Marshall’s high school sweetheart. ‘I don’t know how many chances you can give somebody. I’m really fearful for someone’s daughter or sister. The guy needs some real help.’’
“Watley has a pending civil suit against Marshall based on a history of alleged domestic violence.”
- The Chicago Tribune tells us about what Borderline Personality Disorder is. What they don’t say is that its an excuse for further trouble from Marshall.
- Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who steps up to defend Marshall:
‘‘I have only had positive experiences with Brandon. He is misunderstood. Once you get to know him, he will give you the shirt off his back.”
‘‘My thing is this: Get to know him, the man, before you pass judgment.’’
- Jensen quotes Marshall directly:
“In due time, the truth will be out, and we’re excited about that. Given my history, I definitely understand the concern and the questions.”
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune says that the Bears say they knew about Marshall’s indiscretion before going ahead with the trade. How much they knew is an open question. They said that they talked to Miami about the incident before finalizing the trade.
Personally, Im assuming it was just the story from Marshall’s lawyer. According to Dan Pompei, also at the Tribune, general manager Phil Emery “declined to say whether he called the New York police, talked to bouncers at the club, hired a private investigator to look into the matter or simply relied on the word of a colleague looking to move a player.” He also “would not say whether language was included in the deal to protect one of the draft picks if the player winds up with a long suspension this year.”
- According to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times, Emery did say that the Bears researched Marshall’s background and character and believe the ‘great core’ of leadership in the locker room and throughout Halas Hall will help Marshall avoid further trouble.
That sounds good until you realize that the Bears really never have rehabilitated a player. They’re really better known for cutting guys like this. I respected that. Until now.
- Having said that, Jay Cutler said he also has no qualms about helping be responsible for Marshall.
“Yeah, I’ll take that responsibility,” Cutler said. “Brandon will take that on as well. He knows what he’s done wrong in the past. Any support I can give him, I’m there for him.”
- In any case, Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune points to what may be a major shift in philosophy with the hiring of Emery as the GM:
“Emery got into an uncomfortable exchange with a reporter at one point when asked if the trade, the first big move of his tenure, could be seen as symbolic of his philosophy or simply a matter of timing.
“‘In terms of bringing in big productive playmakers, yes,’ Emery said. ‘In terms of bringing in people we feel are going to fit … our goal of winning a championship and someone (who) is mature and (has) shown … courage to improve as a person, yes.’”
Biggs also pointed to the change:
“Time and time again, the Bears did their best to shift the conversation to Brandon Marshall the football player, not the man off the field.
“[Emery said,] ‘Also, the performance on the field reveals the person’s football character in terms of his passion, his toughness, his competitiveness. We know Brandon’s one of the top players in the NFL, and that speaks volumes about his football character.’
Head coach Lovie Smith also seems to be on board:
‘“Every employee you hire, there’s some risk,’ Smith said. ‘But you weigh that, which we did. I looked at what we had in place here. Having Jeremy Bates here, being his position coach in Denver, helps a lot. Having him work with Jay and knowing that relationship, a relationship between a quarterback and a receiver … is very important. That helped a lot also. And we’re trying to win games.”
Finally, Potash also emphasized the new bottom line :
“A question about the risk of acquiring oft-troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall elicited a nearly five-minute soliloquy from Bears general manager Phil Emery on all the factors that convinced him it was worth it to trade two third-round draft picks for a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with a litany of personal-conduct issues.”
“That’s all well and good. But it took coach Lovie Smith about 45 seconds of his own babble to cut to the heart of the matter when asked a similar question.
‘‘’We’re trying to win games,’ Smith said.”
So if Marshall spends his offseason beating women, its only a reflection of his ‘football character’. Under the new regime, that’s what counts.
- In fairness to Emery, based upon the calls to sports talk radio I’ve heard, this seems to be OK with a surprising number of fans, many of whom can’t see past the uniform. But even those fans become quiet when you ask them this: “How often will Marshall show that character if he’s suspended and not on the field?”
- Assuming that Marshall does eventually find his way onto the field, the good news for those fans is that the Bears seem to have gotten a wide receiver who was superior to anyone else out there. Biggs compares him to top free agent Vincent Jackson:
“Marshall, Emery pointed out, has the second most catches of any receiver in the NFL over the last five seasons, behind only the Patriots’ Wes Welker. What he didn’t say is Marshall has almost twice as many catches (474 to 242) as Jackson over that period.
“‘We really like who he is as a route runner,’ Emery said. ‘We like who he is in terms of his flexibility of alignment. Brandon can be an X, or he can be a Z or he can be an inside slot because he has that great combination of size. He’s 230 pounds. Length, he’s taller than 6 feet 4. And he has great route feet, you know, body control, hips, and he has great strength to move defenders out of the way to get position and make the catch.’”
“One executive who has studied both players said Jackson is faster and a little better with the ball in his hands. But Marshall competes for the ball better, is a superior blocker and a significantly better route runner.”
- Mark of San Diego asks ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert about Marshall’s habit of dropping balls:
“In 2010, Marshall had a drop percentage of 8.5, which ranked 60th in the NFL that season. That means 59 receivers caught a higher percentage of the catchable passes thrown their way.
“In 2011, Marshall’s drop percentage was 6.9, ranking him No. 52 in the league.
“In this case, the percentage confirms what the raw numbers suggest. Marshall’s drops weren’t only a function of his high involvement in the Miami Dolphins offense. He missed more catchable passes than dozens of other NFL receivers.”
- A friend recommended that I watch Marshall press conference before passing judgment. Seifert expresses my feelings on the matter very well.
“As we discussed Thursday, it would be difficult to reconcile any suggestion that Marshall has turned a personal corner if the allegation from Sunday’s incident — that he punched a woman in the eye — is true. It would make Friday’s news conference performance a high-quality con job.”
Seiferts comments highlights the difference between words and deeds. And history indicates that even Marshall’s words aren’t trustworthy.
In terms of the current incident, here’s what Marshall said (emphasis is mine):
“Monday night, he was involved peripherally in an incident at a New York club in which his wife was hit with a bottle during an altercation neither of them was part of, according to a statement from Marshall’s attorney, Harvey Steinberg.”
And here’s what the police reportedly say:
“New York City Police received a report Monday about the alleged assault outside the tony club Marquee in Manhattan at about 3:30 a.m. An argument between a group of men and Marshall that had begun inside spilled outside when Marshall allegedly hit her.”
So, basically, we have yet another lie from a player who has had plenty of practice doing it. The next thing you know, we’ll hear that she slipped on a McDonalds wrapper and his fist hit her on the way down.
- Many fans have pointed out that the victim might be simply trying to take Marshall for some money. But the woman’s motivation is irrelevant. What’s important is that the Bears just bought a receiver who is likely headed towards a suspension before he ever sees the field as a Bear.
- Seifert compares the Marshall acquisition to that of a sports car.
“You’ve read the reviews, which include a long history of high performance and extensive maintenance. You’re hemming and hawing. You figure you’re a great driver, never had an accident, and feel relatively immune toward the chances the car will break down on you. The dealer offers one final test drive. As you careen around the final corner into the lot, laughing the whole way, the transmission drops to the ground.
“What do you do? Write it off as a random and unpredictable incident? Or do you connect it with the documented history of this model and head to the minivan dealer?”
- Kissing Suzy Kolber puts the Marshall report into perspective:
“It wasn’t clear if Marshall intentionally struck [Christine] Myles or if he meant to hit one of her friends, according to the [New York Daily News] report.
“Only buying that if the other friend was a woman.”
- Biggs says that the Marshall acquisition wasn’t the only strong effort the Bears put forth to improve the starting lineup in free agency.
“A strong sales pitch for defensive end Jeremy Mincey fell short. He was minutes away from joining the Bears Tuesday night when the Jaguars lured him back with a four-year contract.”
- Seifert comments on the re-signing of Israel Idoinije:
“The question is whether the Bears intend for Idonije to resume his full-time role, or if their pursuit of Mincey (and possibly others) indicate they will continue searching for another starting option. The Bears don’t have much depth at the position, which is why they were forced to play Idonije — a longtime reserve/swing lineman — on 84.4 percent of their defensive spans last season. “
The signing of Idonije, along with Jennings and Steltz, is simply insurance. The Bears are now working in free agency to make sure they don’t take a step back at any position of need. They’ll now look to draft the best players available to compete at these positions to make themselves better knowing that if no one falls to them, they are covered.
- Biggs says that the Bears had running back Michael Bush in for a visit. This looks to me like a good move despite the fact that the Bears have retained Matt Forte by franchising him. You need two backs nowadays.
- On the other hand Biggs reports that the Bears had Anthony Herrera in for a visit. I’m not as thrilled about this as the Bears don’t need a guard and I have some doubts about how big of an upgrade Herrera might be.
- You could, however, definitely argue for a need at offensive tackle. Pompei comments:
“It does not sound as if the team is intent on finding a new starter for the offensive line, however.
“Smith indicated he was excited about Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams returning from injuries. ‘I like the look of our offensive line with the guys with have signed up right now,’ he said.”
Though I most certainly do not like the idea of J’Marcus Webb at left tackle again, I do recognize the Bears’ problem. Teams usually don’t let good ones get away and there’s not much out there. For instance, Seifert comments on what was probably the best left tackle realistically available:
“Veteran Marcus McNeill visited earlier this week, and his situation is a perfect example of how left tackles who are available often are damaged goods in some way. McNeill is a two-time Pro Bowler but has had two neck surgeries and suffers from spinal stenosis. It would have been hard to count on him for more than a year-by-year basis.”
Emery seems to have the right idea:
“Asked about adding a lineman, Emery said the Bears will always be searching for depth. He said they could look at other free agent linemen, and the team will look “very hard” at offensive linemen in the draft.”
- Ben Stockwell at Pro Football Focus does bring up one interesting possibility at defensive end that is available, however.
“Outside of [Peyton] Manning there are no “marquee” players left. On a short term deal though I think once he is healthy, and as he showed last season in New England, Andre Carter can really provide a boost to a defense. He’s not a long term option but if you’re a contender, running a 4-3 defense, with a hole at defensive end you can do far worse than to sign Carter on a one year deal. If I was theJacksonville Jaguars I’d take a look at him.”
You could say the same for the Bears, I think.
- Biggs quotes Emery on new backup quarterback Jason Campbell:
“Arm strength is very important because of our weather and the teams we play. That to me was a prerequisite moving forward.”
- The Bears also resigned tight end Kellen Davis. Via Biggs:
“Cutler joined coach Lovie Smith in raving about tight end Kellen Davis, who signed a two-year contract. ‘He can be one of the premier tight ends in the league if we use him correctly and he stays healthy and all the stars align,’ Cutler said. ‘He’s such a talented guy, so big, so strong, fast, catches the ball well. So we’ve got to design a package that sets him up for success.’”
Davis is probably an adequate tight end but he’s never going to be a star in the league. He’s good for short passes of 10 yards or less or the occasional pass down the seam but don’t count on him to do much with the ball after the catch.
- Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com highlights the conflict of interest that results from players with competing interests are represented by the same agency, in this case Peyton Manning and Alex Smith:
“Both players are free agents, and the 49ers surely will want to keep Smith if the 49ers don’t land Manning. In order to best represent Smith, his agent should be trying to persuade the 49ers to make a decision sooner rather than later. In order to best represent Manning, his agent should be trying to persuade the 49ers to wait on Smith until Manning makes up his mind.”
- The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys are not happy with the league right now. As Florio put is, they could be going “nuclear” with the NFL as soon as Monday:
“More specifically, the two teams are contemplating suing anyone and everyone connected to the sudden removal of $46 million in total cap space over the next two years, based on the contention that their treatment of the term ‘uncapped year’ too literally somehow created a competitive disadvantage. Even though no rules or policies were violated.”
- Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post explains:
“The word is that [Washington owner Dan] Snyder is beside himself, but he has only his uncontrollable self-interest to blame. What happened was this: Back in 2010, when the NFL entered hardball negotiations with the players union for a new labor contract, the owners warned each other not to use the situation to get a leg up. They were in an uncapped year, with no limit on player salaries, and entering a tense and emotionally fraught labor situation, and they asked each other not to abuse the circumstances.
“In essence they said, ‘Don’t try to set yourselves up to be in a better spot when this is over.’ Think of it like a yellow caution flag in a car race: The drivers agree to hold their places and not to accelerate until the track is clear.”
“Snyder is said to be lawyering up and alleging ‘collusion,’ but experts say a legal challenge will be tough. For one thing, colluding in this instance means improperly acting collectively to suppress salaries. But salaries weren’t suppressed. They were just moved around, manipulated by the Redskins for the purpose of evasion and gaining a future competitive advantage when the cap was reinstated. For another, the group that the NFL owners supposedly colluded against, the union, has signed off on the punishment.”
I’m sure the league got advise from their lawyers before they did this but I have to say that I’m not at all sure there’s no case here. When owners “warn each other” it sure sounds like collusion and I’m not at all sure salaries weren’t suppressed. Jenkins probably says that’s the case because the cap room the Redskins lost was distributed amongst the other teams in the league. But had the owners not “spoken to each other,” who knows how many other franchises would have dumped cap the way the Redskins did. And who knows how high the effective cap would have been this year had all of that extra cap been distributed amongst the other franchises.
In any case, to me “uncapped” means “uncapped” no matter what the owners whisper amongst themselves. Anything less seems to be illegal to me. Or at least it ought to be.
- Seifert points out that the Packers need a center now that Scott Wells has left for the Rams. Look for them to draft one early. Wisconsin’s Peter Konz is a good possibility.
- Pompei, this time writing for The National Football Post, digs out this interesting nugget:
“In fact, Bucs owner Joel Glazer was quoted as saying this in 2007. ‘Free agency can be almost like a drug. You look for that quick hit, that quick feel-good. I know teams that year in and year out are the Super Bowl champions of free agency, and amazingly enough it doesn’t seem to happen for them during the season. If you can resist the urge for about six weeks, you’re often better off.’”
The fact that the Bucs are eating up cap space by signing free agents like its going out of style this year doesn’t diminish the truth behind this quote. The only proven way to consistently compete in the NFL is through the draft.
- Free agent tackle Samson Satel’s timing rivals Brandon Marshall’s. Via the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
- Sam Monson at Pro Football Focus has a few observations from the first week of free agency that I thought were interesting:
“The schematic balance in the NFL continues to shift.”
“This offseason cornerbacks are raking in big money, but the shift in value seems to have come at the cost of linebackers, who are once again experiencing a slow market. Last offseason several high profile and talented players saw a complete lack of interest and ended up signing on for cheap, short contracts in the hope that they could try again down the road. At the time some of this was put down to the chaotic and truncated nature of post-lockout free agency, but now it looks more like the league has begun to value smaller defensive backs who can play the pass over linebackers, many of whom are now rendered two-down players by the ever expanding passing game.”
“Some teams evidently don’t watch tape
The Vikings signed John Carlson to a healthy contract worth around $5m a season. It’s a five-year contract that can be dumped after two seasons, but regardless, the only way you could decide that is good value is if the last bit of John Carlson tape you watched featured a golden dome and Touchdown Jesus.”
“This is a move that seems speculative at best, blindfolded dart-throwing at worst.”
“The Manning sweepstakes is now only down to a couple, but the market for Matt Flynn, another potential answer to a team’s QB issues, is being hampered by the shadow of the Kevin Kolb deal last season. Flynn has shown huge ability in flashes, and teams have thrown big money at those players before, but his current options seem reluctant to pay him for performance that they can’t guarantee he’ll hit. The Cardinals sunk a lot of money into Kevin Kolb on similar potential, and after a stinking first season in the desert, they just had to bite the bullet and pay him another $7m bonus because they have no viable alternative. Nobody wants to repeat that same mistake with Matt Flynn, while the evidence of what it means if you guess wrongly staring them so plainly in the face.”
- Pompei notes that for some unknown reason a large number of players were injured at the combine this year. He gives a partial list of 29 names.
- Peyton Manning tour t-shirts are now available. Via The Sports Pickle.
- On a related note, The Onion has this report: “Broncos’ Manning Strategy Session Mostly Just Fantasizing About Accidents That Could Happen To Tim Tebow”
- The Onion also brings us up to date on some notable free agents.
“Mario Williams: Signed with the Bills after other teams were unable to clear enough cap room to sign both him and his pectoral muscles”
One Final Thought
WSCR’s Steve Rosenbloom did an interesting interview of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Omar Kelly. On whether Marshall’s treatment for borderline personality disorder will affect his on field performance: “He’s trying to kill ‘The Beast.’”