BY HUB ARKUSH
For the Sun-Times
Depending on whose analysis of Brandon Marshall’s contract you believe, Marshall might be a lot less expensive than Jay Cutler to get rid of, and his departure would serve the Bears a great deal better than Cutler’s.
Cutler certainly is overpaid and overrated as a quarterback and he will never be voted Mr. Congeniality by his teammates, but he does have his supporters and he’s not a problem in the locker room.
I’m sure there are Bears who are envious or jealous or both of Cutler for his contract and A-list lifestyle, but Cutler actually avoids the spotlight and there doesn’t seem to be any pocket of dissent or dislike among teammates who would just as soon see him gone.
On the other hand, when it comes to Marshall, more than a few of his teammates would gladly kick in for his bus ticket out of town.
How will we know if the Bears get it right in their hires of a new general manager and coach?
If one of their first official moves isn’t a trade or the release of Marshall, you can assume the team is in trouble again.
Marshall is one of the three or four best wide receivers in football. So why has Marshall never appeared in a playoff game in nine seasons, and why couldn’t the Broncos and Dolphins wait to get him out of their locker rooms?
It’s because he is a nightmare off the field who spends almost all of his time making sure the spotlight is on him and no one else.
One veteran Bear described Marshall’s presence as exhausting.
Another player told me he didn’t believe the locker-room problems were as serious as the media has painted them, but he did think the biggest mistake made by Marc Trestman and his coaches in getting control of the room was being afraid to handle Marshall.
How are you supposed to coach a player or trust a teammate when you never know what he’s going to say or do next?
Then there’s the question of production. Marshall will be 31 in March, but he is a phenomenal athlete who always seems to keep himself in top shape.
Before 2014 — his worst season since his rookie campaign with 61 catches for 721 yards — Marshall had never missed more than two games in a season. He had a string of 65 starts before missing the last three games. Marshall also was limited by a gimpy ankle in at least three or four other games.
It’s reasonable to assume Marshall is capable of bouncing back physically for another big season or two.
But is the selfishness and distraction he brings worth it for a team desperate for a new start and a breath of fresh air?
Overthecap.com is one of several reputable websites that tracks NFL player contracts. It describes the extension Marshall received from Phil Emery in April as a $30 million deal with a $7.5 million signing bonus and the 2014 and 2015 base salaries guaranteed at $7.3 million and $7.5 million.
But it says Marshall’s 2015 salary is only guaranteed if he is on the roster March 13.
Should the Bears release Marshall before then, they will owe him nothing more, but they will take a $5.625 million cap hit.
The Bears could attempt to trade Marshall, but what they will find is a bare market not at all to their liking.
Knowing what Marshall’s reign of narcissism has just done to Trestman and Emery, what NFL exec is going to deal for him?
The biggest question facing the next GM and coach of the Bears won’t be how can they afford to cut Marshall, but rather how can they afford to keep him.
Hub Arkush is the editor of Chicago Football.