In an ideal world, Brandon Marshall would be a key piece of a high-flying offense that would be propelling the New York Giants to a potentially deep playoff run. That was the idea when the Giants signed him as a free agent in the offseason. There is, however, nothing ideal about the Giants’ 0-4 start or the way the 33-year-old Marshall has performed thus far.
Now, ESPN is recommending that the Giants send Marshall packing before the Halloween NFL Trade Deadline. Talk about trick or treat!
Anyway, in a list of a dozen players ESPN’s Mike Sando believes could be available on the trade market, here is what Sando wrote about Marshall:
Less than two months after signing Marshall, the Giants used their first-round pick for receiving tight end Evan Engram, who runs routes that might typically go to Marshall. If Marshall were available, the price would probably be as low as a seventh-rounder, according to multiple execs who didn't seem excited by the prospect.
I’m not here to crucify Marshall and recommend that the Giants send him packing for, oh, a few bags of pretzels. Marshall hasn’t been nearly what the Giants hoped for thus far, but his play is only one small part of why the Giants’ season is almost certainly over before it really ever got a chance to begin.
I’m here because Sando’s piece gives us an opening to discuss Marshall.
Any discourse about Marshall needs to be prefaced with the fact that I was against signing the veteran wide receiver from the beginning. Back in early March, before the Giants signed him to a two-year, $11 million deal I said the Giants should pass on Marshall: “Too much baggage. Too much risk. Too many other places where they should spend their money,” is part of what I wrote.
Here is more:
Should the Giants really spend a good chunk of the limited salary cap space they have available on an aging wide receiver of questionable character who might also have fading skills?
I think not.
The Giants need to prioritize the offensive line.
The Giants happen to be a bad football team that doesn’t do fundamental football things very well. They don’t tackle. They don’t block. They don’t kick very well. They don’t seem to catch very well, either.
I have nothing personal against Marshall. I hope he crushes it over the next 12 games and that the Giants miraculously push themselves back into a position where they at least have a mathematical chance at the playoffs during the final couple of weeks of the season.
The biggest issue I have with Marshall, more precisely with the Giants’ signing of Marshall, is that Marshall’s presence is symptomatic of part of what seems to have gone wrong. In constructing this team, the Giants put flash (Marshall and Evan Engram) over fundamentals — adding to the offensive line or, perhaps, even adding a play-making linebacker to the defense.
My belief has always been that you build from the inside out. Solidify the trenches and then worry about finding play-makers on the outside. Play-makers on offense can’t make plays without blocking, and good corners and safeties on defense don’t help a whole lot without a staunch front seven.
Over The Cap recently took a look at how the Giants approached the offseason, and how they could have done it differently. Here is part of it:
“... you have to understand your roster when you are making the decisions. When you look at the construction of the Giants roster this is a team that has to win now. This isn’t a team with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack in their early 20s with years to go. This is one of the older teams in the NFL, especially at key positions.
They have a 36-year-old QB that is in the later stages of his career. They have a center and guard in the final year of their contracts. Free agents generally give a team, at most a three year window, and Harrison, Vernon, and Jenkins are already in the 2nd year of that window. You could argue that Pierre-Paul is also there. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is probably near the end of his Giants career and Shane Vereen is a free agent after the year.
This is your season to win. It’s not 2018, at least not with this group. The Giants needed to improve in key areas not remain status quo, but that’s what they did. Even when it comes to the draft, the team essentially drafted another receiver. Beckham and Sterling Shepard were already capable enough. Roger Lewis showed flashes. You signed Marshall. I’m sure Evan Engram was the best available guy and may be a truly great player, but with weaknesses on the offensive line, running back, and linebacker that are far more glaring needs than a tertiary receiver I am not sure how you go there with a team like this one that needs to improve today, not tomorrow. There are times when you have to sacrifice the future and this was one of those times, but they didn’t do it.
Yes, the offensive line did an OK job Sunday and earned a “Kudos” as a group. That, however, doesn’t mean it is fixed. The Giants are still piecing it together each week and game-planning around what that group can’t do — blow anyone off the ball in the run game.
I think Engram is terrific and even picked him for the Giants in my final mock draft. He should be really good for a really long time. The Giants, though, still failed to address the two primary weaknesses they had.
Back to Marshall. That failure to address weaknesses is really the fundamental — there is that word again — issue for me. The Giants chose flash. The fundamentals are killing them. McAdoo says they want to be “heavy-handed,” but the Giants weren’t constructed that way and can’t play that way. Which means those are just hollow words.
Choosing Marshall and other incidental free agents over a quality offensive lineman is exacerbated by the fact that Marshall isn’t playing well. A key drop against the Detroit Lions. Two big drops against Tampa Bay. Some questionable effort on longer throws. A miniscule average of 8.7 yards per catch. He has a career average of 12.7 per catch and has never finished a season below 11.1.
Trade Marshall? Eh, whatever. That’s for others to debate. Unless the Giants have a dramatic turnaound he is one of many veteran players who won’t return in 2018.
The big problem with Marshall is that the Giants got their priorities out of whack when they signed him. They have paid for that in their first four games.