Given the long list of aging and expensive veterans already shown the door by the Jets in a massive roster overhaul, it is hardly a surprise that Brandon Marshall has been caught up in the housecleaning.
Turning 33 on March 23 and carrying a $7.5-million salary into 2017, Marshall knew his time was up on a team that has decided to rip off the bandage and go to a complete rebuild instead of trying to patch things with a few changes here or there. Marshall knew this day would come and even told acquaintances in recent weeks that he planned to ask for his release in hopes of joining a contending team.
The Jets have granted that wish. They agreed that Marshall didn’t fit into their long-range plans, and Marshall now is free to decide his future NFL home.
He need not travel very far, however. In fact, he might only have to travel a few yards down the tunnel at MetLife Stadium.
Marshall to the Giants makes a lot of sense, both for the player and the team. Though the Giants have more pressing needs, specifically at offensive line, tight end, linebacker and running back depth, they ought to consider Marshall as a major upgrade to an offense that was at the heart of their biggest shortfall.
Marshall did not have the kind of vibrant season in 2016 that he did in 2015, when he posted some of the biggest numbers of his career with 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. But there were mitigating circumstances for last year’s drop-off to 59 catches, 788 yards and three touchdowns.
The Jets’ offense was a mess from the beginning, with Ryan Fitzpatrick regressing after his own great season the year before. Fitzpatrick’s resurgence in 2015 keyed a 10-6 season that nearly got the Jets into the playoffs, but the clock struck midnight and he reverted to his interception-prone ways last season. He was benched twice, the first time for Geno Smith and the second for Bryce Petty. The offense was doomed.
So was Marshall, who fought through knee and foot injuries suffered in Week 2 against the Bills.
But Marshall wouldn’t have to be the No. 1 receiver with the Giants. Odell Beckham Jr. clearly is Eli Manning’s top target in the passing game, but Marshall could offer a legitimate threat on the outside, something the Giants were missing most of last year, when they played Victor Cruz more on the outside instead of the slot. Sterling Shepard became the primary slot receiver and Cruz was mostly an afterthought.
The 6-4, 230-pound Marshall would be a major upgrade on the outside and give Manning the kind of big target he rarely has had. Marshall isn’t at the same level that Plaxico Burress was during his prime with the Giants, but he’d be a reasonable facsimile and a legitimate threat.
Not to say that Marshall is the missing piece for the Giants’ offense. They still need to get better play from the offensive line, Manning needs to be more efficient and avoid turnovers, and there has to be more production from the tight end position. But that shouldn’t preclude them from strongly considering Marshall, who could help solve the defenses that baffled Manning through much of last season.
Marshall was a big personality in the Jets’ locker room and generally a good influence on a team that needed veteran leadership. Yes, there were some notable flare-ups with Darrelle Revis and Sheldon Richardson, but Marshall arguably was a far more positive presence than Revis, who was near the end last season, and Richardson, who is on the way out after continually running afoul of the coaching staff.
And if you’re concerned that Marshall’s participation in Showtime’s “Inside The NFL” would be a distraction, it certainly didn’t affect him when he was putting up big numbers in 2015. And it wasn’t anything he said on the show that negatively impacted last year’s 5-11 record. The Jets’ poor play was the problem there, not Marshall’s words. Besides, that show is taped on Tuesdays, and the Giants practice that day, so Marshall might not be able to be on the broadcast anyway.
Put it all together and Marshall to the Giants makes complete sense. As long as he’s amenable to a reasonable contract and leaves the Giants flexibility to address other areas, there’s every reason to believe he’d be a terrific fit.