Yesterday, Newsday’s Kimberley A. Martin reported that the New York Jets are releasing veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Jets were Marshall’s fourth team since joining the NFL as a fourth round draft pick in 2006. He also played with the Denver Broncos (2006-2009), Miami Dolphins (2010-2011) and Chicago Bears (2012-2014) before being traded to the Big Apple during the 2015 offseason.
In 2016, while catching passes from the three-headed quarterback monster of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty, Marshall registered 59 receptions for 788 yards and three touchdowns. Statistically, it was one of the least productive seasons of his 11-year career. The mediocre production combined with a 2017 salary cap hit of $7.5 million makes the veteran’s release no surprise.
Now, the question is where Marshall, who is intent on keeping playing, will end up? One team that will naturally pop up while trying to answer this question are the New England Patriots. After all, the soon-to-be 33-year old himself said that joining the Jets’ AFC East rivals would be "intriguing" even though he would simply "be a rental player".
Marshall, who has never been on a team to reach the playoffs, would therefore have some motivation to head north-east. He wouldn’t be the first ex-Jet to do that. Franchise-great Darrelle Revis, after a one-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, played one season with the Patriots in 2014. He made the most out of it, winning the Super Bowl and earning himself a lucrative 5-year, $70.0 million deal with the Jets the following offseason.
Would the interest be mutual, though? Given Marshall’s abilities as a wide receiver, he certainly would be an intriguing option to consider from the Patriots’ perspective. And while the team has its top four wideouts of last season under contract heading into 2017, Marshall would add a different element to the position in terms of size and athleticism; similar to what the in-season addition of Michael Floyd brought last year (Floyd, of course, could still be a candidate to be re-signed despite his recent legal issues).
What Marshall would also bring to the table is a familiarity with New England’s offensive system. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was his head coach for one season (2009), while both were with the Denver Broncos. Playing in what is essentially the Patriots’ offensive system, Marshall finished their lone year together with 101 catches for 1,120 yards and 10 scores. However, he was benched for disciplinary reasons late in the year and ultimately traded to Miami the following offseason.
Still, the former Bronco might be an interesting free agency option for his ex-coach and the Patriots. If Marshall shows a willingness to become a role player on a relatively modest salary for the greater good of the team, it would not be a surprise to see New England bring him on board – if only for the offseason. And even if this does not ultimately happen, the team should at least tip its toes into the water to find out whether or not Marshall would be willing do what others have done before him: Take less money for their best chance to win a championship.