INDIANAPOLIS — It's barely been 12 hours since reports circulated that the New York Jets have released wide receiver Brandon Marshall. In other words, it's still too early to know the Ravens' level of interest in the six-time Pro Bowl selection, but expect them to at least explore the possibility of signing Marshall.
Marshall, 32, fits the mold of the type of "complementary" wide receiver that general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens are looking for, and the type of player the Ravens have had success in adding.
Why it makes sense?: With the retirement of Steve Smith Sr. and the potential departure of Kamar Aiken in free agency, the Ravens are extremely thin at wide receiver. They figure to draft a wide receiver come April, but they are also in the market for a veteran pass catcher to help quarterback Joe Flacco. Despite catching only 59 balls for 788 yards and three touchdowns last season on a bad and quarterback-challenged Jets' team, Marshall is a proven commodity with 941 career receptions. He is just one year removed from a season in which he caught 109 balls for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns.
At 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds, he's a big, physical receiver who can work the middle of the field and other intermediate areas. His size and skill set would fit nicely with the Ravens' current top receivers: Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore, who are speedy deep threats.
The Ravens have had much success adding veterans late in their careers. If they signed Marshall, he'd follow in the footsteps of pass catchers like Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Smith, who had nice runs in Baltimore.
Like Mason and Smith, Marshall is an outspoken guy with a strong personality. The Ravens have a reputation as an organization that lets players be themselves. They don't try to muzzle or stifle players and their personalities. Smith, one of the league's biggest lightning rods during his career, praised Newsome and coach John Harbaugh on several occasions for encouraging him to "be me."
That could ultimately be a plus for Marshall. Baltimore's proximity to New York also might help. Marshall is active in the media and is a commentator for Showtime's "Inside the NFL" show, which is filmed in New York. Harbaugh and the Ravens were fine with Smith traveling on certain off days to fulfill media obligations, so there's no reason to believe they wouldn't approve of Marshall doing the same.
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Free agency, of course, often comes down to the price. The Ravens have some salary cap flexibility and room to create more. With less money though and myriad needs, the Ravens are not equipped to get in a bidding war for top free agent wide receivers like Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor and perhaps even Pierre Garcon. Marshall will surely get a nice contract this offseason, but his age makes him a cheaper alternative to Jeffery and Pryor.
Why it may not work: According to reports, Marshall, who has never played in a playoff game in his career, has prioritized finding a team where he'd have the best chance to win a Super Bowl. In the past, that would help the Ravens' recruiting efforts significantly. However, it isn't clear how the team's recent struggles have influenced the perception of the organization around the league.
They've missed the playoffs in three of the past four years and they're currently behind the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and perhaps even the Oakland Raiders in the AFC hierarchy. Marshall also saw the Ravens at their worst last year as a 24-16 loss to the Jets on Oct.16 probably was the Ravens' worst effort of the season.
If the Ravens are interested, they certainly wouldn't be bidding alone. Several teams are looking to solidify their receiving group. Such teams include the Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Redskins. You can also never rule out the New England Patriots, who have a history of signing accomplished veterans late in their careers.
And then there's the question of Marshall's past. He was arrested three times for domestic violence incidents earlier in his career, and was connected to it on a number of other occasions as well. Ravens officials, led by owner Steve Bisciotti, are on record as saying they wouldn't add a player with domestic violence in his past after what they learned from the Ray Rice situation.
Marshall was diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder in 2011 and in recent years, he's become one of the league's biggest advocates for mental health issues and has worked with domestic violence survivors as well. Marshall has done much to address and correct the issues he's had earlier in his career.
In deciding whether to "green light" a run at Marshall, Bisciotti would surely consult with president Dick Cass, Newsome and Harbaugh in making his decision. Ultimately, though, it would be the owner's call.