According to reports, the Chicago Bears are ready and willing to say goodbye to wide receiver Brandon Marshall. After seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons – including back-to-back 100-catch campaigns – Marshall, who turns 31 later this month, was underwhelming in 2014. He had 61 catches for 721 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games.
The five-time Pro Bowler is due $7.5 million next season.
What are the odds that the Bears part ways with Marshall?
“It’s going to be tough,” CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I wrote about this seven or 10 days ago, but this glut was coming. You had six to seven teams who all had at least one receiver – older receivers, in most cases – whose contracts just didn’t make sense anymore. Normally they try to shop these guys before they inevitably cut them, but history will tell us that the rest of the league isn’t stupid, and when they know that a team needs cap space and can’t afford – or won’t – give (these) guys the kind of money they’re due, they eventually get cut. Just look back at DeSean Jackson a year ago, who was coming off his best season ever and was anything but old.
“So when you look at Andre Johnson and Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Marshall, Anquan Boldin – there’s a pretty big group out there,” La Canfora continued. “Vincent Jackson fits that mold – although everything I hear is that the Bucs will keep him. They have so much cap space and they’re trying to surround Jameis Winston, who I believe they’ll take first overall, with as many weapons as they can. But there’s a lot of guys out there who have looming roster bonuses or big payments due to them or whose contracts start to become guaranteed or who just are making too much money. And when you have that many guys out there available, the teams that need receivers will just wait.
“They’ll wait for the Steve Smiths of the world to be cut like last year, and they’ll kind of swoop in and do their thing. Mike Wallace with Miami. We’ve already seen Jacoby Jones get cut, Brian Hartline get cut. That’s not good news for the Torrey Smiths and the Jeremy Maclins and some of the other free agent wide receivers. Because you just wonder will there be as much money for them and how will it play out? I think Maclin will actually end up staying with the Eagles. I think Randall Cobb will get his 9 or 10 million a year, probably with Oakland. But for a lot of these guys, the amount of veteran receivers who are going to be on the market between now and when free agency starts on Tuesday could hurt their market a little bit.”
Asked which receiver would be most coveted on the open market, La Canfora said it depends.
“There’s different horses for different courses depending on what your needs are, depending on how your locker room is constructed – and it’s going to depend on the price point as well,” he explained. “How much of an economic reality are these guys facing? Does Mike Wallace go form $12 million a year to $5 million a year? I think he might. Does Brandon Marshall go from 8 or 9 to 4? How much do you think they have left in the tank? Do you need an explosive, take-the-top-off-the-defense guy? If you do, that’s not Brandon Marshall anymore. That’s not Dwayne Bowe. Look at Dwayne Bowe. How much of his complete and utter lack of productivity was due to an offense that just had no intent of getting the ball downfield and a quarterback, Alex Smith, who seemingly couldn’t do it. And how much of it is Dwayne Bowe (is) just a guy who was overpaid who isn’t really a No. 1 receiver anymore. That’s what teams are going to have to kind of figure out.
“But in the end, let’s not kid ourselves,” La Canfora continued. “It comes down to money. It’s the right guy at the right price and where does he fit. And there are teams – good teams, smart teams – (such as) Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England (and) Seattle that could use a receiver. Do they find a guy out there on a bargain?”