When Phil Emery took over the football operations of the Chicago Bears and his first signature move was the trade of two third-round draft choices to the Miami Dolphins for the mercurial and enigmatic Brandon Marshall, it was a huge gamble that left more than a few of us scratching our heads.
The word was out around the league that had Emery not stepped up to the cash register for Marshall, then-Dolphins GM, Jeff Ireland was prepared to cut Marshal just to get him out of town. The Dolphins had categorized Marshall to be a me-first guy in the huddle and a polarizing influence in the locker room that needed to be removed. He also came to Chicago accompanied by a long list of "off-the-field" indiscretions that minimally seemed to confirm the Dolphins were on the right track.
So who would have thought that Emery's decision to extend Marshall's contract by three years including a reported $23 million guarantee just two years later could look like such a smart bet? It seems that all of Marshall's baggage was lost somewhere between Miami and Chicago and from the moment he arrived he's been nothing but a positive influence, and one of the three or four best receivers in the NFL.
To be clear, Marshall still occasionally flashes the me-first persona that was at the root of a lot of his old problems, but he has somehow managed to use those traits to enhance his image as a team guy whose main concern is winning football games and supporting his teammates. He's also avoided any off-the-field issues and actually has become a spokesperson for mental health issues and the Borderline Personality Disorder that he believes was the cause of his problems.
I was not a fan of the Marshall deal and I was wrong. Certainly there is risk involved in giving a three-year extension to a 30-year-old receiver with eight seasons of NFL wear and tear on his body. But this new contract that will keep him a Bear until shortly before he turns 35 makes perfect sense. Few players take better care of their bodies than Marshall and he has been extremely durable over the course of his career. He is unlikely to lose much, at least over the next two or three seasons and this deal ties him to the Jay Cutler deal creating even more cap certainty for the Bears.
More and more every day, Emery appears to be the man with a plan who knows exactly what he's doing.