Adding to their depleted wide receiver corps late last month, the Seattle Seahawks signed veteran free agent receiver Brandon Marshall. The 12-year veteran is a player the Seahawks and Pete Carroll have coveted since Carroll’s first year in Seattle and eight years later, Carroll got his man.
Of course, the Marshall that Carroll pursued in 2010 was coming off a 101-catch, 1120-yard and 10 touchdown season, entering his fifth NFL season. The Marshall that Carroll ended up with is a 34-year-old coming off major ankle surgery and an 18-catch, 154-yard season with no touchdowns, entering his 13th season.
However, Marshall’s advanced age and declining skill are only part of the problem with the veteran’s signing with the Seahawks.
With Tyler Lockett recovering from a leg injury, and Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson entering the final year of their contracts, Seattle was proactive last offseason, drafting two receivers: one in the third round (Amara Darboh) and one in the seventh (David Moore). Darboh, an above-the-rim receiver who won on the outside consistently in college, figured to be a natural replacement following Richardson’s departure and the vacating of the number two receiver position, while Moore was (and still is) much more of a project. And while there’s still time for both players to become productive NFL receivers, the Seahawks now have to replace Graham and Richardson’s production in the passing game without an idea of whether Darboh, and to a lesser extent Moore, are the ones to do it.
Darboh played sparingly as a rookie, logging just 17.9-percent of the offense’s snaps, finishing the season with eight catches for 71 yards and no touchdowns. In April, following the departures of Richardson and Graham, Carroll voiced disappointment in not getting a better look at Darboh in his rookie year. So now, with Darboh and Moore entering crucial sophomore seasons and a host of skilled unknowns behind them, Seattle compounded the issue of not getting a look at their younger players by signing a veteran in Marshall with little to offer.
Alarmingly, the minuscule production the Seahawks received from Darboh and Moore wasn’t unusual to Seattle, either. Throughout Carroll’s time with the Seahawks, the team has swung on receivers in the middle and later parts of the draft, only to barely give them a look:
Less than two months after airing disappointment at not getting a better look at their two latest mid and late round receiver selections, Carroll has positioned them to fall by the wayside, just like Durham, Harper, Norwood and Lawler before them. That isn’t to say Marshall’s signing seals Darboh or Moore’s fate; if either player is going to be a starter in the NFL, they should break through in 2018 regardless of who is ahead of them. But what Marshall’s signing does do is put another veteran in the way, taking away valuable offseason reps not just from Darboh and Moore, but the other receivers behind them too.
An already stunted development has another roadblock in its way, and for what upside? There’s a point when name recognition can only get you so far.
For Marshall, his career is well past that phase.
In five games last season, Marshall was one of the worst receivers in the NFL, averaging 4.6 yards per target and catching just 54.5-percent of the passes thrown his way, the third lowest mark of his career. Marshall was slow off the line of scrimmage and in/out of his breaks — 66-percent of his receptions last year were within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, despite nearly half his targets coming from beyond eight yards of the line of scrimmage — and he was unable to beat single coverage.
This is a receiver who wears out his welcome at every stop. The Chicago Bears were annoyed with Marshall flying out to New York every week during the season to tape Inside the NFL. Former Seahawk and Marshall’s teammate with the Jets Sheldon Richardson tore into Marshall after his departure from New York last summer, saying there was “15 reasons why the Jets locker room was better off” and calling him a drama queen. In the event Marshall actually makes Seattle’s 53-man roster, there’s a more-than-decent chance he is so displeased with his role playing minimal snaps that he gets jettisoned midseason to save the team the headache.
From the Seahawks’ point of view, it’s easy enough to understand why they made the signing. Marshall is a big-bodied receiver and a veteran, both of which the team currently lacks. The price was negligible and risk free. But the real risk comes in stunting the growth of homegrown talents and shaking up a fragile (or recovering) locker room. The potential upside — that Marshall can provide a big body to be isolated in the red zone — is so unlikely and weighed down so heavily by the potential downsides, that it’s a signing that shouldn’t have been made at all.