Brandon Marshall has two things that were noticeably lacking in the Seattle Seahawks’ wide receiver corps before they agreed to terms with the six-time Pro Bowler on Tuesday: size at the top of the depth chart and experience on the back end of it.
He also has a 34-year-old body with 12 seasons of NFL wear and tear on it, including an ankle injury that limited him to five games and 18 catches last year with the New York Giants. That led them to release him last month with a failed-physical designation.
It’s no wonder that Seattle’s addition of Marshall appears to be on the lower end of the risk spectrum.
At 6-foot-4, Brandon Marshall gives Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson a big target. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
While the full details have yet to emerge, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Marshall’s one-year contract can be worth up to $2 million if incentives are reached. The minimum salary for a player who has been around as long as Marshall has is $1.015 million, so the signing bonus is apparently under $1 million. For context, the max value of $2 million is a fraction of the $11.5 million that Doug Baldwin makes on average, and it’s less than the $2.75 million the Seahawks will pay in 2018 to Jaron Brown, who is also in the mix to be one of their top three receivers.
Signing Brown (6-foot-3, 204 pounds) and Marshall (6-4, 230) gives Russell Wilson a pair of big targets to go along with Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, who are both 5-foot-10 and less than 200 pounds. Those additions came after Seattle brought in Terrelle Pryor Sr. (6-4) for a free-agent visit and reportedly had one scheduled with Jordy Nelson (6-3) before he signed with Oakland. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Seahawks’ interest in big-bodied receivers comes after their passing game lost its biggest body when they let tight end Jimmy Graham — he of 10 red-zone touchdowns last season — leave for Green Bay.
Marshall becomes the 12th receiver on Seattle’s roster, though one could be waived to make room. Had they not signed Marshall or another available veteran, the Seahawks would have been counting on one or more of their unproven youngsters to contribute to the rotation in 2018. It’s a group that has plenty of potential but not much production to this point in their respective careers. In fact, the trio of Tanner McEvoy (14), Amara Darboh (eight) and Marcus Johnson (five) have combined for 27 receptions while the others behind Baldwin, Lockett, Brown and now Marshall — i.e. David Moore, Cyril Grayson Jr., Damore’ea Stringfellow, Keenan Reynolds and Caleb Scott — don’t have any.
Marshall, meanwhile, has six seasons of at least 100 receptions, the most in NFL history per ESPN Stats & Information research. He has topped 1,000 yards eight times, most recently in 2015, when he also finished in a tie for the league lead with 14 touchdown catches. His numbers dropped considerably in 2016 — 59 catches, 788 yards, three touchdowns — but Seattle’s offense would gladly take that type of production in 2018 if Marshall could replicate it.
At his age, Marshall doesn’t offer Seattle much long-term upside, and therein lies a drawback to signing him even at a rate that protects the team from any substantial financial risk. There are only so many game snaps and practice reps to go around, especially with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement considerably reducing the amount of on-field work teams can do each offseason. Any time that Marshall gets in practice or games is time that one of Seattle’s younger receivers doesn’t get. That had to be a consideration, particularly with regards to Darboh (2017 third-round pick), Moore (’17 seventh-rounder) and Johnson (acquired from Philadelphia in the Michael Bennett trade).
But if one of those receivers plays well enough to beat out Marshall for the fifth or sixth roster spot — depending on how many Seattle keeps — it’ll be a good sign for the long-term future of the position. And if Marshall makes the team, it’ll mean he showed enough over the summer to convince the Seahawks that he still has something left in the tank.