This is the 10th in a series of scouting reports on 15 key players who are slated to become free agents — restricted or unrestricted — March 5, unless they are re-signed or franchised before then.
News: It still looks as if WR Brandon Marshall and the Broncos will part ways this offseason, but there's a chance he could be back in Denver in 2010, despite a falling out with head coach Josh McDaniels. McDaniels questioned the severity of the hamstring injury that kept Marshall out of the Broncos' season finale, and Marshall cleaned everything out of his locker, including his name plate. Marshall, a four-year veteran, recently expressed a willingness to return to Denver in '10, and owner Pat Bowlen said he hopes to have Marshall around next season. Marshall will be a restricted free agent if no new CBA is agreed upon and Denver likely will tender him at a high level before exploring some trade options.
Notes: There's no denying Marshall is one of the most talented receivers in the game. He has showed that for the past three seasons, but his performance was particularly impressive in '09. While working with a new quarterback in a new offense without a great supporting cast at receiver, Marshall set a career high by making 10 touchdown grabs. He has had at least 101 catches and at least 1,120 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. He also carries baggage with him after a series of off- and on-field incidents. He was suspended during training camp last season after disrupting practice by punting balls away during drills, amongst other dubious behavior, and was suspended for the first game of '08 season for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
Strengths: Marshall is one of the most complete receivers in the league. His size gives him an advantage in most matchups against defenders and it helps him make acrobatic grabs in traffic. He has great speed and quickness for a pass catcher of his size. He's a threat after the catch, too, and is elusive in the open field. Marshall will break tackles and stretch short gains into long ones. The two-time Pro Bowler is also a strong blocker.
Weaknesses: He will make the occasional mistake, whether it's a drop or a fumble. Poor decisions off the field have plagued Marshall throughout his career, and he's one violation of the personal-conduct policy away from a significant suspension. His behavior has become a distraction for the Broncos in the past. He's likely to ask for a long-term contract at some point in the near future and will be very costly to keep around.
Risk factor: Considering Marshall could be suspended for eight games the next time he violates the league's personal-conduct policy, we consider him a high-risk free agent. That said, a team could reap great rewards for acquiring Marshall, as he has the potential to boost an offense into high gear. Any team interested in him likely will have to pay a high price in draft picks.
Sunday: Ex-Giants ILB Antonio Pierce
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.