Marshall extension has wide-ranging benefits

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2013 file photo, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) pushes Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (23) away after a catch in the second quarter of an NFL football game, in Cleveland. The Bears have agreed to terms with Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall on a three-year contract extension. It is worth a reported $30 million, and Marshall's foundation tweeted Monday, May 19, 2014, that he was donating $1 million to the "mental health community." (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) (Tony Dejak)

Second chances can be a tricky thing. The one that the Bears gave Brandon Marshall has paid off, not only on the field, but also with what he has meant in the locker room and most importantly, the mental health community.

Marshall himself now gets to cash in on the second (or third, whatever you want to call it) chance he received with a three-year, $30 million extension signed Monday, keeping him in a Bears uniform through the 2017 season. He was entering the final year of a four-year, $47.5 million extension he signed when he was traded to Miami in 2010. That deal may have had more money, but it was at the prime of his career. This is a nice sum for a receiver who just turned 30.

As Marshall says, football is his platform, raising awareness for mental health is his purpose through the Brandon Marshall Foundation, and he is donating $1 million of his new contract (which has $23 million guaranteed) to the mental health community.

It’s OK for folks to still remember Marshall’s off-the-field issues and arrests earlier in his career and it can be understandable that there are still those irked by his boisterous personality — shown perfectly in the fact that he signed the contract on ABC’s “The View” and posted a photo to “Instagram” before the Bears made it official — but they still have to acknowledge what Marshall has done to get on a better life path.

It doesn’t matter that his play on the field speaks for itself, what matters is that Marshall, to this point, is a success story in turning his life around after being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and giving back through his foundation.

To keep Marshall with the Bears for three extra years keeps an important member of the mental health community in our city — where his foundation is housed — who has become a positive “second chance” story.

In the locker room, Marshall has proven to be one of the key leaders, inviting Bears to his home in Florida for “Bears South.” Prior to 2013, it was his work with Alshon Jeffery that helped his teammate break out last season. This February, wide receiver Marquess Wilson joined several Bears players in the trip, hosted by Marshall.

“The things that he did during the offseason is show leadership and help pull the team together,” Phil Emery said Monday morning on the “Mully and Hanley Show” on AM-670, prior to the announcement of Marshall’s extension. “They mean a lot, they mean a lot to our other players, and it shows the quality of person he is.”

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, Marshall has seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons and has caught 100 passes five times. He is 30 years old with plenty of years of production ahead of him and, unlike last year, won’t be coming off hip surgery.

As Jeffery continues to ascend, Marshall will keep benefitting, and his rapport with Jay Cutler is a fun thing to watch on the field. The reported guarantee of $23 million on a $30 million contract may be a cause of concern for some, but his average-per-year of $10 million is seventh among receivers, and at least $2.312 million less than what the franchise tag would cost.

Marshall could have bet on himself and played the season facing free agency next March, but he has always maintained his desire to stay in Chicago, and the feeling was clearly mutual. Emery and Cliff Stein can use the extension to get creative, as they prepare for Jeffery’s next contract.

Naysayers will have their points about Marshall’s checkered past and cynics will wonder if he can maintain the on- and off-field success with a lucrative contract, but for two years in Chicago, Marshall and the Bears have not been burned by the second chance.

In fact, both sides have thrived, and hundreds and thousands in the mental health community have and will continue to benefit from it, too.

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