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updated: 5/21/2014 9:32 PM

Turning 30 shouldn't slow down Bears' Marshall

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  • If Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall continues playing at the same level he has over the last two seasons, he likely will own every Bears receiving record when his contract expires in 2017.

       If Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall continues playing at the same level he has over the last two seasons, he likely will own every Bears receiving record when his contract expires in 2017.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • If Brandon Marshall plays until he's 38 and keeps up the pace he's set over the first eight years of his NFL career, he would finish with numbers second only to Jerry Rice.

      If Brandon Marshall plays until he's 38 and keeps up the pace he's set over the first eight years of his NFL career, he would finish with numbers second only to Jerry Rice.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Brandon Marshall makes a touchdown catch during a game against the Giants last season.

      Brandon Marshall makes a touchdown catch during a game against the Giants last season.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer ¬

 
 

If you're wondering why the Bears just gave Brandon Marshall a $30 million, three-year contract extension two months after his 30th birthday, stop it. Odds are Marshall will be worth every penny, and might even outperform his contract.

When it comes to elite wide receivers -- and Marshall certainly is in that category -- some of their most productive seasons, and often more than half of their career production, comes from age 30 and beyond.

Three of the 20 most prolific pass catchers in NFL history are still active, but of the remaining 17, 10 were more productive from their first season as a 30-year-old and beyond than they were before turning 30. That includes each of the top five pass-catching wide receivers in league history -- Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Terrell Owens.

Unlike NFL running backs, most of whom are used up by age 30, top-notch wideouts seem to thrive in their 30s. Nine of the 17 top pass catchers who are retired played more seasons after turning 30 than they did before then. Rice played 13 seasons after turning 30, catching 1,023 passes. In the seven years before that, he caught 526.

It's unlikely anyone will ever match Rice for longevity. But many of the top wideouts who played the same number of years from age 30 and beyond, as they did before turning 30, were more productive when they were older.

• Cris Carter had eight seasons in each category yet had 45 percent more receptions (652-449) in his final eight years than in his first eight, and he had 62 percent of his TD catches.

• Tim Brown had 70 percent more catches (689-405) from age 30 on than he did before he hit that age.

• Derrick Mason had 72 percent more receptions (596-347) in eight seasons after turning 30 than the seven before.

• Jimmy Smith is the best example of a wide receiver getting better with age. He had more than twice as many receptions, yards and touchdowns starting with his first season as a 30-year-old than he did pre-30.

As Marshall prepares to enter his first season as a 30-year-old, the numbers indicate that he's still in his prime. His first two seasons with the Bears were the most productive back-to-back seasons of his eight-year career and the most productive in franchise history. In 2012-13, Marshall caught 218 passes for 2,803 yards and 23 touchdowns.

If Marshall is able to play the next eight years at a pace that comes close to matching his first eight, he would retire with numbers that, as of now, would be second only to Rice.

Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Anquan Boldin are all well ahead of Marshall for now, but Wayne is 36, Johnson 33 and Boldin 34. Among active players, Marshall also trails Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker and Steve Smith, but Fitzgerald is 31, Welker 33 and Smith 35.

As for the Bears' record book, Marshall should own most of the significant career receiving marks by the time his contract extension expires at the conclusion of the 2017 season after just six years with the franchise.

And it won't be a surprise if he's still going strong by then.

• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.

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