Brandon Marshall release boosts otherwise thin free-agent WR group

How does the Jets' release of wide receiver Brandon Marshall affect the free-agent market? Sam Monson answers.

| 3 months ago
(Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Brandon Marshall release boosts otherwise thin free-agent WR group

A thin wide receiver group in free agency was handed a boost with the news that Brandon Marshall was being released by the New York Jets as the team continues to clean house and push for a younger roster.

Marshall endured arguably the worst season of his career last year with the Jets as the team struggled through quarterback disasters all throughout the season. It marked only the third time in Marshall’s career that he recorded fewer than 1,000 receiving yards (with one of the other two his rookie season, where he only saw 34 passes thrown his way), and the second time that he had fewer than 60 receptions.

Brandon Marshall grades

The key statistic, though, is that he still saw 121 targets come his way, meaning he caught only 48.8 percent of the passes thrown to him, the lowest figure of his career by 10 percent.

Marshall has always dropped passes—he had seven drops last season—but that is four fewer than the season before, and doesn’t explain the drop in statistics. Instead, the answer lies in the disastrous Jets QB play, for the most part.

Let’s not forget that Marshall was able to go toe-to-toe with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman last season and emerge with 89 yards and a touchdown, one of only two Sherman allowed all season. He was the only receiver I can remember that was able to take it to Sherman physically and give him more than he could handle, winning the tussles off the line and in the route (with contact that could easily have been considered over the line by the officials, who instead chose to let the two fight it out), and putting Sherman off balance in a way most receivers just can’t.

Marshall’s size and strength has always been his calling card. He has routinely been among the best blocking receivers in the game, and was often given blocking assignments by the Bears earlier in his career that TEs, let alone WRs, would struggle to execute. Marshall has broken 157 tackles after the catch over his career, hitting double-digits eight times (and notching nine on two other occasions). Back in 2007, he managed an astonishing 39, which is still the most PFF has seen over a season over the past decade of grading.

Even that statistic deserted Marshall in 2016, and he could manage just three broken tackles from 59 receptions. Though he had impressive tape against players like Sherman, there were games where Marshall wasn’t nearly as impressive, and at 32 years old, he requires a certain style of QB and officiating to be successful. He won’t beat his man with speed and quickness, and is a possession-style of receiver that won’t fit every offense.

That being said, he is only a year removed from a 1,500-yard, 14-touchdown season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback, meaning he is still a valuable weapon for somebody.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Phong Ta

    I think Marshall would be a good fit with the Ravens if they can’t land Pierre Garcon. Veteran possession receiver who offers a bit after the catch, and wins with his physicality and route running. Sounds a lot like what Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith did for the Ravens to me

    • crosseyedlemon

      The Ravens definitely need to upgrade at the position. The real issue with Marshall is that he can sometimes be a head case. When he is focused he can be a solid contributor but at other times he seems to have no interest at all.

  • cka2nd

    Adding him to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen would give the Vikings one hell of a trio of wide receivers and allow them to move on from Cordarelle Patterson and Jarius Wright and let Laquon Treadwell sit and learn (and drive impatient fans nuts).