The recent trade that landed Brandon Marshall with the Chicago Bears raised a few eye brows last week, but seemed to get overshaddowed by the highly publicized Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Each off-season, Chicago seems to have one of the tougher defenses in the league and stands to be a potential playoff teams for the upcoming season. But year after year, Jay Cutler struggles to find his receivers; when he does find them, they struggle to hang on to the ball. Finally the stars have aligned, with Marshall reunited with his former quarterback Cutler, there are once again high hopes in Chicago.
We all know Marshall is a solid wide reciever, but we also know he can be somewhat of a distraction. He has had his fair share of off the field issues (including one that became public right as he was traded to the Bears). Marshall and the Bears are confident this recent incident will not result in any sort of suspension, and I believe he is capable of putting his off the field issues behind him.
As much of a head case or disruption he might have been in years past, his talent is hard to argue with. He has recorded over 80 receptions and over 1,000 receiving yards in five straight seasons. And the last season that Cutler and Marshall played together (back in 2008 for the Denver Broncos), Marshall put up 104 receptions, over 1,200 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games. Toward the end of Cutler's stay in Denver, he became unhappy with the coaching and started bumping heads with Marshall, but he still knows how to play with him. It shouldn't take long before the two of them get back on the same page and realize that they need each other.
The Bears' previous top four wide receivers haven't exactly lived up to their expectations. Johnny Knox and Roy Williams both led the team in receptions last season with only 37 catches. Earl Bennett has shown glimmers of promise, but he can't seem to stay healthy enough throughout the season to make much of an impact. And unfortunately for the Bears, it seems as though Devin Hester has hit his wide receiver ceiling. He's fast and is possibly the greatest return man in NFL history, but he doesn't have the size or route running ability to make him a great receiver. All of them still have potential and are valuable assets to the team, but none of them have shown they can be the number one wide receiver and a consistent offensive threat.
Jay Cutler's struggles with interceptions and sacks in previous years can be attributed to many things, including a weak offensive line, bad play calling and the possibility that maybe he just isn't as good as people thought he was. All of these things might be true, but one thing for sure that hasn't helped him is the lack of talent at wide receiver for Chicago. Now that they have Marshall, the offense can finally become a significant threat. Johnny Knox could become a very good number two wide receiver; and if Roy Williams and Earl Bennett can learn to become better slot receivers, they can all put up seasons with some significant fantasy value.
The players who will gain the biggest fantasy boost from this trade will undoubtly be Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall himself, running back Matt Forte and possibly even Johnny Knox. Some might argue that this will have a negative effect on ForTEs fantasy value because of how often he gets used in the passing game, but I think even if his total number of receptions goes down a little bit it will be beneficial because he won't have to carry the load as much. He won't be as worn out toward the end of the season, which will allow him to keep breaking those 50 yard plus dashes that make him so fun to watch. Opposing defenses will now have to play the pass just as much as they load up for the run or short passes in the flats. ForTEs speed and elusiveness will be highlighted as teams try to pay more attention to Marshall.
I can definitely see Brandon Marshall putting up top 10 wide receiver value in 2012, and you will probably be able to get him for cheaper than that because of how much of a head case and distraction he has been in the past. I think he and Cutler both realize they need this to work. Neither of them want to be on losing teams anymore. I look forward to seeing "Da Bears" back in the spotlight in 2012.