The Denver Broncos were never going to get a first-round draft pick for receiver Brandon Marshall. And they were never going to give him the kind of long-term financial package his play has warranted, due to the myriad off-field issues and broken trust between Marshall and coach Josh McDaniels.
So Denver did the only rational thing under those conditions and got two second-round picks for Marshall. It's the best compensation they were going to get, it was time to move and, with the draft a week away, now was the time to do it. If you won't give him a long-term deal, one day the player is going to walk out the door as a free agent with nothing really in return (a compensatory pick at best).
Doing that would be a mistake. Making a trade now, and getting this much back, is salvaging the best of an untenable situation.
This was never going to be a feel-good story for Marshall in Denver. The situation had deteriorated beyond that. Relationships were too frayed. Moving on with Marshall wasn't an option. He and the team were at odds over his contract, injuries, and there wasn't nearly enough common ground to work from. It's unfortunate, but true, and things weren't going to get better.
The possibility for blowups between the sides -- like when Marshall was benched in Week 17 of last season -- was just too significant and the Broncos were not going to incur the risk of giving Marshall $10 million a season and $25 million guaranteed. And Marshall badly needed a fresh start.
This isn't fantasy football. Trades are not just about stat sheets and the metrics. This is a business and if the money isn't right -- and in Denver the money for Marshall never would be -- and the interpersonal dynamics are shot, then you get the best return possible and get out. There was no salvaging this relationship and there was not nearly enough belief and understanding between the sides to make it work.
Few trades exemplify that more than this.
Yes, losing Marshall creates a void, but, again, he wasn't part of their future anyway, so you have to move on. You don't have to look any further than the Pittsburgh Steelers parting with Santonio Holmes for a fifth-round pick as more evidence of that.
The Broncos could take another calculated risk in the first round on enigmatic receiver Dez Bryant, who has the most talent of any pass-catching prospect, or they could look for a wideout with one of their two second-round picks (43rd and 45th overall). Regardless, coming out of this deal they now have three selections in the top 45, which puts them in prime position to maneuver in either direction on the first two days of the draft, a flexibility they did not have prior to dealing Marshall.
Even with Marshall, it's hard to imagine the Broncos as a playoff team in 2010. They have too much to rectify after the rapid deterioration of last season. But the lingering uncertainty about Marshall's future in Denver -- and when the next episode might come -- is gone, well before OTAs and before coaches and veterans begin indoctrinating another draft class into the locker room. That is a very good thing.
So kudos to general manager Brian Xanders and McDaniels for getting as much as could be hoped for under the circumstances, though obviously not for the circumstances that made the deal necessary.
As for the Dolphins, this is a quintessential Bill Parcells move. He's in his third year in Miami, when history would say he starts to get the itch for wanderlust, and he's trying to win right now. This trade fills the biggest need on his roster -- for an offensive playmaker -- and offers someone to help aid the development of emerging quarterback Chad Henne.
The Dolphins have been one of the league's biggest spenders under owner Steve Ross, and this is another such move. No hesitation to pay Marshall, and rightfully so. His real off-field troubles are a few years behind him. There are no issues between Marshall and this staff, and everyone knows Parcells sets a no-nonsense tone. If Marshall could catch 100 balls while disgruntled, he could be even more dominant now that he's being paid a salary commensurate with his production.
Yes, there is always the concern about how a player conducts himself once he gets paid. However, the same is true for the bevy of rookies about to become millionaires, and I'd rather give $20-plus million guaranteed to a Marshall than I would to Bryant or some other rookie just outside the top 10.
With the glaring need at receiver filled, Miami could drop down a bit and still come away with a defensive ace like LB Rolando McClain or DT Dan Williams, and acquire an additional second- or third-round pick, which would essentially replace what they lost in 2010 assets for Marshall.
Ultimately, if Marshall continues to post these kinds of numbers for the duration of this contract, a lot of people will look back and say it was a steal for the Dolphins. And understandably so. But considering the reality of what the Broncos were up against, this was the best they were going to do, and the perfect time to do it.