The New York Giants have made the first big splash of free agency by agreeing to terms with Brandon Marshall on a two-year, $12 million contract.
The former Broncos, Dolphins, Bears and Jets wide receiver turns 33 years old this month and is coming off a career-worst season in which he caught 59 of 125 targets for 788 yards and 3 touchdowns. Despite his age and the Jets' rough season, Marshall was on the field for 94 percent of the team's pass plays and handled one quarter of the targets when active.
Marshall's landing spot all but guarantees he'll see a similar workload in 2017. During head coach Ben McAdoo's three seasons with the team, the Giants have ranked either first or second in the NFL in three-plus wide receiver sets when passing. That includes an NFL-high 97 percent in 2016.
Marshall joins Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard to form one of the NFL's best wide receiver trios. Barring injury, the three receivers will be on the field for nearly all of the team's pass plays next season. Expect Marshall and Beckham to spend most of their time on the perimeter, with Shepard working from the slot. Marshall lined up in the slot on 20 percent of his routes last season. Beckham's mark was 15 percent and Shepard's 85 percent.
Although it's likely Marshall will see a slight down-tick in target share, his dominance near the goal line certainly keeps him in the WR2 discussion. Consider that even during a rough 2016 campaign, Marshall racked up 15 end zone targets, which ranked seventh among wide receivers. He has now finished sixth or better in that category in five consecutive years and, with 180, he paces the entire NFL in that category during the past decade (Larry Fitzgerald is next closest among active players with 117).
Considering his age and rough 2016, it's fair to wonder if Marshall is "done" or if we can expect a rebound this season. A deeper look at his numbers shows a player who struggled as a result of poor quarterback play. Marshall caught only 47 percent of his targets last season, which was well below his previous career-low of 57 percent. An astounding 31 percent of balls thrown his direction registered as "off target," which was nearly triple his 13 percent rate in 2015 and nearly double his previous career mark of 17 percent. In fact, that 31 percent mark was highest in the NFL among players who saw at least 70 targets.
Marshall also suffered some unfortunate "luck" in the touchdown department. He registered a 6.8 receiving OTD (16th-highest in the NFL) but scored only three touchdowns. Marshall caught three (or 20 percent) of his 15 end zone targets after catching 20 percent the previous nine years.
Eli Manning is now 36 years old and coming off a down year in which the Giants' offense managed only 1.9 offensive touchdowns per game (23rd in the NFL). Of course, with the upgrade from Victor Cruz to Marshall, Shepard entering his second year, the return to health of passing-down back Shane Vereen and a probable upgrade at tight end, this is an offense in line for a bounce back.
The Giants obviously are not done making moves, but, for now, here are early 2017 16-game projections for the team's top-three wide receivers:
Beckham Jr.: 166 targets, 102 receptions, 1,323 yards, 9 TDs (first-round pick and top-end WR1)
Marshall: 131 targets, 74 receptions, 930 yards, 7 TDs (borderline top-20 fantasy wide receiver)
Shepard: 107 targets, 66 receptions, 735 yards, 5 TDs (flex option who should be upgraded in PPR leagues)
Will joining Giants get Brandon Marshall back on track?
More TOP STORIES News