Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dolphins trade Marshall to Bears, confuse everyone

BY David Villavicencio

The Dolphins have seemingly shocked NFL fans everywhere today.

Miami traded star wideout Brandon Marshall to the Bears for a pair of third-round picks. Marshall caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns in 2011 while earning his third career Pro Bowl selection.

I am not an NFL writer but I don't need to be one to know that this deal on its own makes zero sense for Miami and instantly makes them a worse team than they were 24 hours ago.

Marshall has plenty of negatives. He's a malcontent. His bipolar disorder has gotten him into plenty of issues in the past. He has had spurts of inconsistency throughout his career.

The 27-year-old came to Miami with baggage after causing havoc at the end of his time in Denver. He also instantly became the best receiver the Dolphins have had since The Marks Brothers and possibly even Paul Warfield.

Marshall is 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., and will be just 28 when this season kicks off in September. He is probably among the 10 best receivers in the game today as far as talent and is definitely in the top 20. Despite all of his negatives, the guy is very talented and still relatively young. He definitely has more value than a pair of third-round picks.

Basically, the Dolphins gave him away for pennies on the dollar.

Many speculate that Miami made this move to appease free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. It has been widely reported that Manning was not fond of the possibility of playing with Marshall.

You can almost guarantee that this trade has something to do with Miami's courting of Manning but it may be poorly timed.

Some fans are speculating that this deal sets in motion a verbal agreement with Manning that would ultimately bring him to Miami. Basically, you get rid of Marshall and I will be your quarterback.

That's fine.

Peyton Manning has earned enough respect in this league to make such a request.

But if you're the Dolphins and you are put in this possible scenario, don't you tell Manning to sign with your team and then you will move Marshall?

It only makes sense from Miami's standpoint to keep an asset like Marshall until after they bring in Manning. Once he signs, you can shop him around the league and get something for him. You might even get competing teams looking to add a wide receiver to bid against one another for the right to acquire him.

Instead, it appears like the Dolphins made some under the radar calls and struck a deal just minutes after the new league year started.

Manning and Wayne would help in the short-term but
they are not long-term solutions. They also are not guaranteed
to sign with Miami.
The immediate shock and uproar of today's trade will fade quickly if Miami signs Manning. It will be almost completely forgotten if the Dolphins can add Reggie Wayne to replace Marshall.

But adding Wayne is probably a downgrade as far as production and long-term potential. Wayne will be 34 in November. He probably only has a few years left of football in him.

Had Miami been able to add Wayne to be the second receiver with Marshall, it would have been a much better receiving group. Wayne would have been an instant upgrade over Brian Hartline and Davone Bess would have continued to flourish as a slot receiver.

But today's trade leaves Miami with holes at two receiver spots. They also have a group of free agents they are interested in bringing back. Some of those players, like nose tackle Paul Soliai, will not come cheap. Neither will Manning.

Dolphins fans might argue that they can go add a free agent wide receiver like Vincent Jackson or Mike Wallace to replace Marshall. But the truth is those players are not going to come at a discount. That could complicate things for Miami, especially if they add Manning.

After trading away Marshall, Miami is now $20 million under the salary cap. But they will have a hard time adding Manning, a top-tier free agent receiver and bringing back Soliai or some of their other valued free agents. They also need to address issues with the offensive line. There simply is not enough money to go around.

Dolphins fans will cheer if they add Manning but he cannot be what he was in Indianapolis without someone to throw to.

In his best years, he has Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne at receiver, Dallas Clark at tight end and Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai at running back.

That group has four possible Hall of Fame players (Harrison, Wayne, Clark and James) and another (Addai) who was very good for some time before falling off.

Right now, the Dolphins are offering Manning a chance to play with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline Anthony Fasano and Reggie Bush. Not exactly the type of talents Manning has been used to seeing in his huddle in the past.

Will the addition of Manning make them more productive? Probably.

But Manning is not guaranteed to sign with the Dolphins and that would leave that uninspiring group playing with Matt Moore under center.

Dolphins fans will certainly be livid then.

They'll also be staying up very late on Saturday nights to watch Matt Barkley play for USC because they certainly will not want to watch Moore and Co. play the next day.