On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Bengals could become participants in the Brandon Marshall sweepstakes. Specifically, Schefter said that the Bengals were discussing internally the possibility of pursuing the Broncos’ restricted free agent receiver, who carries only a first-round tender.
James Walker of ESPN.com gingerly sprinkles water on his colleague’s theory, explaining that “thinking about a player and actually making a trade are two vastly different things.” Walker points out that giving up a first-round pick and paying Marshall a contract in the range of $30 million to $40 million would not mesh with the Bengals’ historical approach to player acquisition.
Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer has offered a more cynical view, suggesting that the rumor reported by Schefter is “mostly a smoke screen” that is aimed at “driv[ing] up the price with Seattle.”
Frankly, we’re not sure why the Bengals would help the Broncos get a better draft pick for Marshall, or why the Bengals who held Marshall get more money from Seattle. And we doubt that Schefter would be reporting so unequivocally that the Bengals are discussing Marshall if in fact they aren’t.
The more likely explanation is that the Bengals are trying to drive down the demands of the other receivers whom they currently are considering — Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens. Bryant made nearly $10 million in 2009; he likely is looking for a deal that averages close to that number. And Owens consistently has been able to get big-money contracts even in one-team bidding wars, under the notion that Owens won’t be “happy” with his new team unless he’s making the kind of money that causes him to conclude that his skills are being properly respected.
So we think that the Bengals are considering Brandon Marshall in order to let Bryant and Owens know that, for the kind of cash they presumably want, the Bengals are more inclined to pay it to a guy who is younger and, frankly, better than either of them.