During the run to 16-0, there wasn’t a bigger strength on the New England roster than the receiver position. Now? Well, it’s not 2006 around here quite yet, but you can certainly come up with more questions than answers at this spot when looking at the future.
The elixir could be in this section of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. The biggest names among receivers on the unrestricted market have to be Antonio Bryant, a talent who’s had issues, and Kevin Walter, a nice piece from Houston who’s hardly a game-changer. But the restricted market is flush with stars.
Brandon Marshall. Vincent Jackson. Braylon Edwards. Miles Austin. All big, fast players with the ability to alter coverage when they’re at their best.
I’d rule Edwards out, not only because of his very serious consistency issues, but also because he’s a Jet and there’s no way those two clubs are dealing. Nix Austin, too, whom Jerry Jones is committed to keeping in Dallas. And that leaves Marshall and Jackson.
I spoke with Marshall in December after his record-breaking day in
Indianapolis, and while he was affable and open about his big
afternoon, the receiver would really only say about Josh McDaniels’
offense that “The transition took some time for me” and “We’re still
So even though he’s a good enough athlete to fit anywhere,
it’s clear he was a little lukewarm about the system. And then there’s
what McDaniels said about trading for Matt Cassel at last year’s owner’s meetings. Check it out.
“I don’t think Bill Belichick wanted to trade Matt Cassel to me. Why would he want to do that?” McDaniels said. “”He knew and does know that I’ve coached the player. He saw what happened this past year. … I
don’t know that I would want to do that with any of our players – send
him to a guy that had coached them and had success with them. That
would improve their team significantly.”
Belichick and Co. have never coached Marshall. But if McDaniels has the same kind of institutional knowledge — of what Marshall could do in New England — would he want to put himself out there by dealing a star to his old team? Probably not.
That leaves Jackson, who I’m bullish on. He’s tough, competitive, and at 27, still has room to grow. When Jackson came out of Northern Colorado in 2005, the Patriots kicked the tires on him.
I don’t think San Diego’s going to be quick to deal him, at all. But if they do think they’ve got to slash payroll, and Marcus McNeill becomes a bigger priority, and they decide they want to get rid of him, would it work?
Again, I think it’s highly unlikely. But if you’re looking at the restricted free agent receivers, I think Jackson’s the guy you’d ideally want.