Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agency: Bears Acquire Brandon Marshall From Dolphins

The Chicago Bears sent the NFL world aflutter on Tuesday afternoon when they — without any preceding rumors or public sense of anticipation — traded for dynamic wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Quick history here: In 2006, the Denver Broncos draft QB Jay Cutler in the 1st round of the NFL draft (No. 11 overall) and then, some 100 picks later, select WR Brandon Marshall in the 4th round (119th overall).

After three tumultuous seasons in Denver, Cutler gets traded to the Bears, where then-GM Jerry Angelo says, essentially, "The quarterback makes the wide receiver. Look at Brandon Marshall — he was nothing until Cutler made him something!"

Meanwhile, in 2009, a year after the Cutler trade, Brandon Marshall gets shipped off to the Miami Dolphins where he signs a contract extension. Deprived of his Pro-Bowl quarterback, Marshall's career gets ripped asunder in the unforgiving Miami heat... right?

Wrong. He goes on to post two more 1000-yard years, earning his third Pro Bowl appearance in 2011 — a game in which he breaks the Pro Bowl record with 4 TDs and 176 yards.

Meanwhile, Cutler throws for 3666 yards, 27 TDs, then 3247 yds, 23 TDs, and then 2319 yds and 13 TDs (in an injury-shortend 2011 season) without a single wide out going over 1000 yards or 5 TDs (TE Greg Olsen had 8 TD receptions in 2009, but that's the only WR/TE to do so since Cutler arrived).

The QB-WR relationship is a symbiotic one. Cutler has been throwing to blown routes, aggressive DBs (or at least DBs more aggressive than the Bears' receivers), and just-not-fast-enough deep threats. Personally, I think if Cutler have another 1.5 seconds in the pocket on each pass play, he'd make WR Devin Hester and WR Earl Bennett look like Pro Bowlers, but upgrading the offensive line is a difficult and slow, or quick and expensive (draft vs. free agency), process. With one swift move, the Bears are able to upgrade their whole receiving corps and Jay Cutler as well.

Plus: All this for a pair of third rounders? Right now, this looks like a really solid move for the new GM, Phil Emery.

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