Bears GM Ryan Pace has ways to replace Brandon Marshall’s production

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His Twitter handle says it all. Brandon Marshall is a machine — a pass-catching, yards-gaining, touchdown-scoring machine.

But that machine will have to be replaced by general manager Ryan Pace, who traded the problematic wide receiver to the New York Jets on Friday.

Marshall put up unmatched numbers for the perennially receiver-starved Bears during his three-year run, averaging 93 catches and 1,175 receiving yards.

Despite those gaudy stats, the Bears were determined to get rid of Marshall. But those numbers still have to be made up somehow.

The New Orleans Saints’ approach to offensive success resonates with Pace. Unlike the Bears during Marshall’s tenure, the Saints spread the ball with winning results.

Considering how fondly Pace speaks of Saints coach Sean Payton’s philosophies, the safe assumption is that he would prefer to do the same in Chicago. So look for the Bears to load up with different types of receivers this offseason.

During the Saints’ most successful run from 2009 to ’2011 — 37-11 record, two top-ranked offenses, Super Bowl XLIV champs — they had seven players with 30 or more catches each season. In 2010, the Saints had eight players with 30 or more catches with running back Pierre Thomas just short at 29.

That spread-the-wealth approach didn’t exist in Chicago the last three seasons and really couldn’t exist because of Marshall’s demanding ways. He initially voiced concerns about Marc Trestman’s offense — and his role in it  — when spreading the ball became a stated goal.

In Marshall’s first two injury-free seasons, he was responsible for 33 percent of the Bears’ receptions (218 of 660) and 36 percent of the receiving yardage (2,803 of 7,740).

Marshall’s production didn’t always equate to victories. In his career, Marshall’s teams are 15-19 when he has 100 or more receiving yards. His teams are 14-1 when he has between 80 and 95 receiving yards.

And there’s another statistic to consider: Marshall’s 773 career receptions are the most for any player without a postseason appearance.

A prototypical No. 1 receiver isn’t a prerequisite for a Super Bowl champion, either. The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks didn’t feature one this season. The last team to win a Super Bowl with a 100-catch receiver was the Patriots in 2001, when Troy Brown had 101 receptions.

The depth chart behind Alshon Jeffery needs substantial work. The Bears have Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani, Josh Morgan and Marquess Wilson. But receiver was considered a need even when Marshall, who turns 31 this month, was on the roster.

Pace realizes that a decent free-agent market full of different types of receivers will help his cause. He has roughly $30 million to spend, and beyond the big names of Torrey Smith and Jeremy Maclin, there could be value found in the latter stages of free agency.

There’s also another touted draft class of receivers. Last year, there were five wide receivers picked in the first round, and they averaged 70 catches, nearly 980 yards and more than eight touchdowns.

Add everything up, and perhaps Marshall can be accounted for in 2015.


Twitter: @adamjahns

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