One of the most compelling storylines this offseason is Brandon Marshall and whether he returns to the New York Jets in 2017. Marshall, for one, doesn't believe his future with the team is tied to his salary.
"People need to get away from me due $7.5 million," the wide receiver said Wednesday morning on WFAN radio's Boomer and Carton Show. "Get away from my salary. That's underpaid. Any team should be happy to have me for $7.5 million."
Marshall is right, the money isn't prohibitive. According to ESPN data, his $7.5 million salary in 2017 is tied for 13th among receivers in terms of actual cash payout.
The players ahead of him are Tavon Austin ($15 million), Dez Bryant ($13 million), Demaryius Thomas ($12.5 million), Julio Jones ($11.5 million), A.J. Green ($10.5 million), Jeremy Maclin ($10 million), Randall Cobb ($9.5 million), Jordy Nelson ($9.25 million), Doug Baldwin ($8.25 million), Torrey Smith ($8 million), T.Y. Hilton ($8 million) and DeAndre Hopkins ($7.9 million).
Marshall's future appears up in the air because he'll be 33 and he's coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year in 2006 -- 59 catches, 788 yards and three touchdowns. No doubt, his production was hurt by the poor quarterback play, but he also wasn't the same dynamic player he was in 2015, perhaps because of nagging injuries.
He was overpaid in 2016 ($9.5 million) based on his production, but he was underpaid in 2015 ($9 million), when he re-wrote the Jets' record book for receivers. Funny league, the NFL.
Moving forward, money will be a factor because it's always a factor in the NFL, but it won't be the overriding aspect of this decision even though the $7.5 million is non-guaranteed and would be wiped off the books. It'll be about the fit. Do the Jets have enough confidence in their young receivers to move on from Marshall? Does Marshall, who says his only remaining goal is to win a Super Bowl, want to play for a team that probably will be rebuilding?
The Jets have tough decisions to make. They're pressed against the projected $168 million salary cap, and several high-profile veterans are on the bubble.
"I've probably been underpaid the last six years, if we're really about comparing production to receivers across the league and what I've been doing," Marshall said. "Now, when you only catch 50-something balls for over 700 yards and you're 30-something years old, that's when teams come to you like, 'We don't think you're good anymore.'"
You may recall that Marshall said at the end of the season that he'd "play for free" if his bills are paid (they are, he said). Obviously, he wasn't serious, although some took it that way. Based on Wednesday's comments, he would reject a pay cut to stay with the Jets, although it probably won't come to that. It'll be $7.5 million or a parting of ways.