By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
1:07 AM CDT, March 14, 2012
Not long after the Bears acquired Jay Cutler three years ago, he began lobbying the front office for a wide receiver.
Text messages were sent. Cutler wanted help. Maybe even a go-up-and-get-it guy.
Help arrived Tuesday when the team kicked off the start of free agency with a trade for Cutler's former favorite target on the Broncos, Brandon Marshall. The Bears shipped the Dolphins two third-round draft picks in exchange for the three-time Pro Bowl performer, who remains under contract for the next three seasons at a cost of $28.1 million. Marshall will earn $9.5 million this season and $9.3 million in 2013 and 2014.
Who knew this would go down? A week after the season ended, Cutler tweeted, "I can get #15 out of storage! Suit you back up." Indeed, the Bears are giving Marshall No. 15.
"He's going to be great for Jay and our offense," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "It's cool that he and Jay played together in Denver so there is some familiarity."
By dealing for Marshall, the Bears avoided even bigger bucks it would have taken to land Vincent Jackson, the top available free agent who signed with the Buccaneers for $55.55 million over five years with $26 million guaranteed and $36 million paid in the first three seasons.
But it's more than curious the Dolphins would let go of the 27-year-old Marshall for so little, especially since the offense new coach Joe Philbin is installing relies on wide receivers more than any in the league. Also, the Redskins went all-out for wide receivers in free agency and Marshall's former coach Mike Shanahan didn't deal for him.
An NFL source said the Dolphins quietly maneuvered for weeks in an effort to trade Marshall. The first significant move by general manager Phil Emery is a big one because Marshall comes with baggage. It's the kind of roll of the dice predecessor Jerry Angelo rarely made as the Bears go for it now coming off an 8-8 season that started 7-3 before Cutler's broken hand sent the team into a spiral and toward eventual change.
The Bears also signed journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell, 30, to a one-year contract, acting swiftly to ensure their season won't rest in hands of an unproven performer if Cutler is injured again. Campbell, a former first-round draft pick of the Redskins, has 70 career starts and was playing well for the Raiders last season before a broken clavicle ended his year.
In another move, the Bears signed former 49ers linebacker Blake Costanzo, a special teams ace who is a likely replacement for Pro Bowler Corey Graham if he departs as expected.
Marshall joins his third team in four seasons and adds instant firepower to a passing attack that has been sorely lacking it. It has been nine seasons since Marty Booker was the Bears' last 1,000-yard receiver, the longest active stretch in the NFL. Marshall has gone above 1,000 yards for five straight years and caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns last season. He has been a model of durability too, missing just five games in six seasons.
With Cutler and Marshall pairing up in 2007 and 2008, the wide receiver caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns. Marshall, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, is also known as a rugged blocker in the running game, something that will make him an ideal fit for new coordinator Mike Tice.
With the Bears still pursuing a defensive end in free agency, Emery could have flexibility with the 19th overall pick in the first round of next month's draft.
Marshall has had issues off the field. In school at Central Florida, he was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer. He pleaded a DUI arrest in Colorado down to driving while impaired.
The Rocky Mountain News reported sheriff's deputies were called to Marshall's home 11 times in a 21/2-year span. In 2008, he put his arm through a television set, a story he originally explained by saying he slipped on a McDonald's wrapper. In March 2009, he was charged with disorderly conduct following a disagreement with his fiancee, now wife, in Atlanta.
Monday night, he was involved peripherally in an incident at a New York club in which his wife was hit with a bottle during an altercation neither of them was part of, according to a statement from Marshall's attorney, Harvey Steinberg. He said Marshall took his wife to a hospital where she was treated for "serious injuries" and Marshall hopes to "assist authorities" regarding the matter.
The New York Post, however, reported the episode took place around 4 a.m. Sunday and that Christin Myles filed a police report saying that during the fracas Marshall hit her in the left eye, blackening it.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported the Dolphins and Bears had been negotiating a trade since the NFL combine and were aware of the incident before finalizing the deal.
Last April, Marshall's wife, Michi Nogami-Marshall, was arrested after allegedly stabbing Marshall.
Marshall revealed to the Sun Sentinel last summer he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that leads those who suffer from it to struggle with relationships, mood control and emotions.
But if he can control that there is little question he will perform on the field at a position the Bears now have some interesting options and still could look to add help via the draft. Running back Matt Forte has led or tied for the most receptions on the team in three of the past four seasons.
Now, the offense could take flight. Cutler's messages finally were answered.
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