The Bears got the king-sized, go-to, superstar wide receiver they've been after for years even before free agency began at 3 p.m. Tuesday when they traded two third-round picks to the Dolphins for Brandon Marshall.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall has caught at least 80 passes and accumulated at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past five seasons. In his two seasons in Denver with Jay Cutler as his quarterback (2007-08), Marshall caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns, the two most productive seasons in a stellar six-year career.
Marshall already has 494 career receptions, 2 more than the Bears' all-time leader, Walter Payton; and 138 more than the top wide receiver in franchise history, Johnny Morris (356). Marshall's 6,247 career receiving yards are well ahead of Morris' franchise-best 5,059.
The Central Florida product, who will turn 28 later this month, was a fourth-round pick (119th overall) of the Broncos in 2006, the same year they took Cutler 11th overall. Both went to the Pro Bowl after their big 2008 seasons, and they have been outspoken recently about reuniting. That 2008 Pro Bowl was Cutler's only one, while Marshall has gone three times, and he was named the game's MVP in February after catching 4 TD passes.
The Bears have now provided Cutler with a quarterbacks coach, Jeremy Bates, who worked with him for two years in Denver, and Marshall, one of the game's most gifted receivers.
So why were the Bears able to acquire such a freakish talent for just a third-round pick this year and another in 2013? Because Marshall comes with serious character concerns and off-the-field baggage.
Despite that, his production has always been comparable to the elite receivers in the league. The Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald and the Falcons' Roddy White, along with Marshall, are the only NFL players with more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last five years. Marshall holds the NFL record for most receptions in a game with 21 in a 2009 loss to the Colts.
The newest Bear is under contract through 2014, with salaries of $9.3 million this season and $9.1 million in each of the two subsequent seasons. The Dolphins traded two second-round picks to the Broncos for Marshall before the 2010 season and, even though he had 167 receptions for 2,228 yards and 9 touchdowns in his two seasons in South Florida, he did not fit into the plans of new head coach Joe Philbin.
Some Dolphins reportedly grew frustrated with Marshall's behavior at times, and according to the Miami Herald, he dropped 5 touchdown passes last season. He also had a highly publicized domestic incident in which his wife was arrested last year. One former teammate said Marshall would behave strangely at times and that he got away with behavior that other players would not, according to the Herald.
But other players in the Dolphins' locker room were fans of his and disappointed to see him go.
Tuesday afternoon, Miami center Mike Pouncey tweeted: "Man what the (heck)! Brandon Marshall out of Miami? Tell me this ain't true.."
Marshall's list of legal and domestic problems is nearly as long as his list of accomplishments on the field.
Last summer, he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at Boston's McLean Hospital after several incidents with his wife, Michi Nogami-Campbell. He is currently in treatment for the illness and is filming a documentary about his struggle.
That diagnosis came three months after Marshall was stabbed in the stomach by his wife and hospitalized for two days. Two years earlier, Marshall was arrested after a fight with Nogami-Campbell, his fiancÚ at the time.
Despite his numerous off-the-field problems, Marshall has earned the reputation as one of the game's most electric difference-makers and most physical wide receivers.
"Brandon Marshall is a defensive lineman playing wide receiver," Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "He wants to inflict punishment on you. He wants you to try to tackle him so he can shove you off of him and get more yards."
Eagles Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said Marshall is "the toughest guy to bring down, one-on-one."
Marshall was also in the group of Broncos players involved in a dispute at a nightclub that resulted in defensive back Darrent Williams being fatally shot in the neck on Jan. 1, 2007.
BRANDON MARSHALL'S CAREER STATS
Year rec. yds. avg. td
2006 20 309 15.5 2
2007 102 1325 13.0 7
2008 104 1265 12.2 6
2009 101 1120 11.1 10
2010 86 1014 11.8 3
2011 81 1214 15.0 6
total 494 6247 12.6 34