NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano
It’s that time of year again folks, pipe dream season. The only thing more abundant than flowers blossoming outside, are the absurd trade scenarios budding around the NFL. Whether a team whiffed during free agency, or simply doesn’t believe the upgrade they want is available via the draft, coaching staffs are still trying to find their roster’s missing piece.
This causes certain teams to reach for the stars, and names that normally wouldn’t be bounced around start to echo in league circles. Usually nothing comes from this other than speculation and fan disappointment. However, what if Bill Belichick decided to pick up the phone, dial Bears GM Phil Emery and inquire about the big dipper?
The AFC has become an arms race between Denver and New England. If the Patriots could somehow trade for Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, that would be like giving America the Millennium Falcon during the battle of the midway. Marshall is a bonafide number one wide receiver. Something Brady has been missing over the past couple seasons. Now I know the conventional argument against this type of move is that New England’s offense has been more than efficient without a player of Marshall’s ilk, so why waste draft capital on such an expensive purchase?
Well, Rob Gronkowski has not shown the ability to stay healthy. Doesn’t really matter how dominant he is on the field, if he can’t actually stay on the field. And when you look at Gronk’s history, there’s nothing to indicate he’ll be able to stay healthy all year long, let alone when it matters most.
Outside of Gronk you have a solid cast of #2 and #3 receivers that can compliment an offense. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins had good rookie campaigns between them, and should improve heading into next season. The operative word here is “should”. I’m a card carrying member of the Josh Boyce fan club, but how much can he contribute after falling behind so much due to injuries? Brady might not necessarily need talent around him to win a championship, but why not give him that luxury?
As it constitutes right now, for my money, Chicago has the best receiving tandem in all of football. Alshon Jeffery is everything scouts thought he would be following his sophomore year at South Carolina. Pairing him up with Marshall has given the Bears a potent combo that will have opposing defensive backs losing sleep for years to come.
Here’s the thing though, it’s going to be mighty difficult to lock both of these players up long term, impossible no, but very tough. Marshall is a free agent after 2014, while Jeffery can’t negotiate a new contract until after his third season. The Bears priority will be to lock up the younger receiver long term. Marshall has said he doesn’t need to break the bank with an extension, but what a player says before sitting down at the negotiating table usually holds little water.
If I’m the Bears, trading Marshall should strongly be considered. The last thing they need to do is tie up cap space at one position with so much of their roster in flux. If Percy Harvin was dealt for a 1st rounder and some change, then Brandon Marshall, who’s a superior receiver, should command more. That will be a steep price for anyone trying to pry Marshall away, but for a team like New England, that price might be worth it. Brady to Marshall has the potential to be even more prolific than Brady to Moss.
However, like so many other names that have been tossed around coming to One Patriot Place, it’s past indiscretions that will ultimately put the kibosh on it ever happening. Although Marshall has made great strides over the last couple years taking control of his life, and has become a strong veteran presence in the Bears locker room, red flags from earlier in his career would probably curb New England’s interest.
The Patriots will most likely draft a receiver again this year, mainly because the talent pool is so deep. Players who would typically be given a 1st or 2nd round grade any other year might still be on the board going into day three.
A comparable to Marshall in this draft is Kelvin Benjamin. He has a similar frame to Marshall, and knows how to take advantage of it. During his sophomore year he slowly began to master the art of body control, and gaining position on your defender. Although Benjamin is raw, and probably would have benefited from another year at Florida State, that doesn’t mean Josh McDaniels wouldn’t be able to find a spot for him early on in New England’s red zone offense. Not to mention he’s a realistic option at #29.
Trades like Brandon Marshall to the Patriots are always entertaining to talk about before the draft. And with Belichick you never know, just when you think he zigs, he zags. Like the rest of us Bill has his telescope out, except while we’re all gazing up at the Fitzgerald and Marshall constellations, he’s looking down at Dobson’s ankle.