The Chicago Bears are looking to move veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, according to a Thursday report from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. The nature of those trade talks is a little cloudier, with some suggesting that the Bears are actively shopping Marshall to other teams, and others who say the Bears are taking a more passive approach and letting teams come to them with offers.
This is the first suggestion that Chicago's roster is getting an overhaul under new head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace.
The five-time Pro Bowler will turn 31 before the upcoming season. He's coming off a season that saw him produce the lowest numbers since his rookie year in 2006. Marshall finished 2014 with 61 receptions, 721 yards and eight touchdowns. Injuries limited him to just 13 games.
Biggs suggests that the Bears could be seeking a mid-round pick in exchange for Marshall. It's a reasonable asking price, if it's true, but his contract could be an issue. Marshall's full $7.5 million salary becomes guaranteed if he's on the roster March 12. He has a cap hit of $9.575 million this season, according to Over the Cap, and similar numbers on a contract that runs through 2017.
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Why a move is likely
The demand for receivers, even guys in their 30s, is endless. Marshall's former head coach, Marc Trestman, is now the offensive coordinator in Baltimore, a team losing a receiver with Torrey Smith headed for free agency. The Ravens are also struggling with their own cap issues, however. Half the league could justify adding a receiver, and Marshall, when healthy, is capable of producing 1,000-yard seasons.
Chicago could elevate Alshon Jeffery to the top receiver spot in Marshall's absence, and offensive coordinator Adam Gase has other weapons with running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett. There's also third-year receiver Marquess Wilson. The Bears visited with free agent Brian Hartline this week as well.
Cap space isn't a significant issue for the Bears, with roughly $28 million available at the moment. Fox does have plenty of holes to fill on a defense that allowed an average of 27.6 points per game last year, the second-worst mark in the NFL.
Why a move isn't likely
The free agent market has plenty of receiving options, albeit few No. 1 types. This year's draft class isn't as rich with receiving talent as last year's, but it's still a good, deep group for teams in the market at that position.
What could really keep teams away is Marshall's contract. It would most likely have to be restructured, and that could be a dicey proposition. Plus, teams could also wait to see if the Bears drop Marshall ahead of next Thursday when his salary becomes guaranteed. It's the rare buyer's market for wide receivers. It's also difficult to imagine the Bears keeping both Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler on the roster, given the size of their deals and trying to restore peace there. Cutler may get to stick around just because it's so much harder to find a quarterback to replace him.
Marshall gets guff from the media sometimes for his personality, and reports of a dysfunctional Bears locker room last season won't help that. He's one of those players a coaching staff would have to feel comfortable with before adding him to the roster.
Likelihood of a trade
4/10 -- Teams are familiar with Marshall's past and what he can do on the field ... as well as off it. He'd still be a welcome addition for some teams, but the best course is probably waiting to see if the Bears cut him, saving the draft pick and getting the chance to redo his contract on more favorable terms.