Broncos need new Marshall plan

Broncos need new Marshall plan
By Jason Cole and Charles Robinson
August 28, 2009

The Denver Broncos suspended Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall(notes) through Sept. 5 for "detrimental" conduct, according to coach Josh McDaniels. Marshall, who had previously asked to be traded and for a contract extension, was suspended after a series of incidents – including antics caught on video during practice on Wednesday.

Yahoo! Sports NFL writers Charles Robinson and Jason Cole break down the escalating situation between the Broncos and Marshall.

• Who is at fault for this problem?

Cole: To blame Brandon Marshall for this latest suspension is akin to taking an alcoholic into a liquor store and blaming him for getting loaded. Yes, Brandon Marshall has been a difficult guy for the Broncos to deal with over the years. But here's the problem with blaming him for what has happened in this situation: When Denver traded Jay Cutler(notes) this offseason, the Broncos set the stage for what's happening with Marshall.

In fact, they traded a better player in Cutler when the quarterback asked for a trade. Marshall asked for a trade and got a cold shoulder. He asked for a new contract and got no response. Now you keep the guy around, knowing that he's unhappy, and you're surprised when he blows up? Please. If the Broncos' new coaching staff and management claim they didn't know Marshall was going to blow a gasket at some point, they're either lying or stupid.

Robinson: I don't know how you could blame anyone but Marshall for this suspension. That video from practice – even if some of it is out of context – is downright embarrassing. Linebacker Kirk Morrison(notes), who has seen countless acts of dysfunction with the Oakland Raiders, called the video "crazy" on his Twitter account, remarking that he'd "never seen anything like that before."

The worst part, you can bet Marshall knew exactly what he was doing. He made the scene during the portion of practice that still allows cameras to film players – which suggests a premeditated act. Say what you want about the Broncos' new regime and their questionable moves, but the fact is Marshall had maturity issues coming out of Central Florida, and being constantly babied by former coach Mike Shanahan only made the problem worse. Don't blame the new coaching staff and front office for trying to fix something that should have been dealt with years ago.

• Where do the two sides go from here?

Cole: What's sad about this is that with Marshall, the Denver offense might have been pretty entertaining this year, even with Kyle Orton(notes) at quarterback. Between Marshall, Eddie Royal(notes), Brandon Stokley(notes), Tony Scheffler(notes) and Knowshon Moreno(notes), the Broncos had plenty of skill guys to throw at people. Now look for the underrated Royal to get swallowed up by double coverage.

As for Marshall, either trade him for whatever you can get or cut him. Yeah, I know cutting him sounds stupid on face value, but here's a story to consider: In 2004, the Dolphins held onto the rights of Ricky Williams(notes) after he “retired” because of two failed drug tests (not to mention his utter lack of respect for Dave Wannstedt). Over the years, the Dolphins spent more time answering questions and dealing with issues about Williams than was necessary, leaving the franchise completely distracted. In the end, the Dolphins went through the worst run of years in team history, bottoming out in a 1-15 season in 2007.

They would have been better off just cutting bait on the whole Williams situation. As for Marshall, his latest maneuver has left his trade value plummeting faster than Robinson's IQ when measured against fifth graders.

Robinson: If you're the Broncos, you keep him on indefinite suspension and move on. I'm not sure you even entertain trading him, even if you get a solid offer (which is unlikely). It sets a terrible precedent. Cutler already forced his way off the roster. If you allow it to happen twice, you've lost the respect of your players and the ability to reasonably control your personnel. Once those things are gone, owner Pat Bowlen might as well fire coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders and start all over again.

As far as Marshall goes, he'll appeal through the NFLPA and probably lose. There's nothing he can do but sit at home and take the suspension, much like Terrell Owens(notes) and Keyshawn Johnson(notes) did in similar situations. If he's smart, he might consider what he's done to his chances of getting the next big contract that he wants. Look at what happened with Plaxico Burress(notes) at the end of his stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He should have commanded a far richer contract than the six-year, $25 million deal he signed with the New York Giants in 2005. But his reputation was so damaged that it devastated his free-agent value. Marshall is doing the same thing to himself.

• What kind of trade value does Marshall have right now?

Cole: The first call the Broncos should make is to San Francisco to see if the 49ers are desperate enough to trade one problem (Michael Crabtree(notes)) for another. OK, that's a little facetious, but I would at least make the call. In real terms, the Broncos would be exceedingly lucky to get a second-round pick for him. Even a third-rounder might be generous at this point.

But here's the bigger problem for Denver: Marshall's contract will be up at the end of the season. Denver could try to bluff its way through putting a franchise tag on him or saying they will pay him the restricted free-agent tender if there is no extension of the collective bargaining agreement. But the rest of the NFL knows the score and will wait out Denver. Reality is that Marshall's highest value is still right now, when teams think they're going to be competing. Then again, this four-game suspension isn't going to help Marshall's value with him coming off hip surgery. Yet another brilliant part of Denver's personnel strategy.

Robinson: Marshall's sheer overwhelming talent means he'll always have solid value. But for the Broncos, any chance of maximizing his value via a trade has gone out the window. He might draw just one or two middle-round picks at this stage. Already, a handful of personnel men were sharing tepid reactions after seeing the video of Marshall's practice antics. One prominent general manager called the video "unreal." Another called Marshall "just another spoiled brat."

And while there is no denying his talent, he is far from perfect on the field. One general manager recently pointed out that over the last two years, Marshall is second only to Braylon Edwards(notes) in the NFL in dropped catchable balls. And though he was targeted a great deal in Denver's offense, that's still an ugly stat.

That only adds to the issues that come with acquiring Marshall, as a team would have to surrender a piece in trade, then a possible contract extension down the road. None of which even takes into account Marshall's history in the league's discipline program, and the fact that he's one more incident from an extended suspension.

Add the risks up, and his overall trade value is far less than it should be.

Updated on Friday, Aug 28, 2009 4:09 pm, EDT

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