INDIANAPOLIS – Seeing Odell Beckham on one side of the field, Brandon Marshall clear across on the other side of the field and Sterling Shepard lined up between them in the slot makes sense. More than makes sense. Good luck dealing with that trio – as long as the offensive line can keep Eli Manning upright long enough to deliver the ball.
There is no doubt the Giants want to add a big receiver to their arsenal, and they don’t come bigger than Marshall (6-foot-4, 230 pounds). Or much better, though he turns 33 in a few weeks and is not getting better with age. Manning always has prospered with targets who possess a wide catch radius – think the length of Plaxico Burress, long arms and big hands of Hakeem Nicks and, to a lesser extent, the height of tight end Kevin Boss. Accuracy never has been Manning’s defining trait, and a guy like Marshall allows a quarterback to throw it in the area without pinpoint precision and have it plucked out of the air.
So, football-wise, Marshall moving directly to the Giants after his release by the Jets makes sense. But – you knew there was a “but’’ coming – is unleashing Brandon Marshall in a locker room with Beckham and injecting him into a receivers meeting room with Beckham a wise move?
Plus, there is a financial component to this. The Giants aren’t spending a ton of money on a receiver, and how much is Marshall looking for? He was supposed to make $7.5 million in 2017 with the Jets. Figure that is a starting point on the annual salary he is looking for. The Giants do not have the salary cap space to hand out a four-year, $30 million contract to an old receiver.
The Giants are expected to express interest in Marshall, but they could quickly get priced out of serious consideration.
There is chemistry to consider here. Beckham, 24, is a mega-star, but in need of calming. Shepard is also 24, steady and mature, coming off a solid rookie season. Would Brandon Marshall be a positive influence on them? Marshall got into a training camp fight last fall with Darrelle Revis. He got into an in-season fight with Sheldon Richardson. By the end of the season, the young Jets receivers had enough of Marshall. He will dispute this, but it is true.
Manning is impenetrable – no one coming in would dare second-guess or threaten the reign of the ultra-professional franchise quarterback – and Marshall could not be bracketed in coverage, not with Beckham such a threat on the other side. But he is an outsized personality, gearing up for a TV career. His role on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL’’ is not a deal-breaker, but the Giants practice on Tuesdays, the day the show tapes. Victor Cruz was everywhere during his off-time, cultivating his outside interests, but Cruz was as steady as it gets while Marshall has caused plenty of turbulence in his career.
Marshall might be able to find a landing spot with a team that views him as a No. 1 receiver, something the Giants cannot offer. Unlike last year, they will go bargain hunting this coming week in free agency. A tall receiver can be found in the NFL Draft. An offensive lineman or tight end with experience cannot. Marshall is a priority signing for someone, but not a priority for the Giants.
The Giants spent last year until they could spend no more, and there are great risks when re-building that way through free agency. Making multi-millionaires of Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon “Snacks’’ Harrison was a gamble, and the Giants struck gold. Not only were the three imports on defense exceptionally good on the field, it was almost uncanny how perfectly they meshed in the locker room.
Marshall could be a missing piece to the offensive puzzle. He can talk with the best of them, and it wasn’t long ago he was breathtakingly good (109 receptions, 1,502 yards, 14 touchdowns in 2015) with the Jets. The Giants are in a get-younger mode and Marshall would be the second-oldest player on the roster, younger than only Manning (36).
It makes sense, but it is not the right fit.