Marshall is three weeks away from his 33rd birthday, he was due to make $7.5 million and -- oh, by the way -- he's coming off his worst season as a pro. He fit the "cap-casualty" profile. This was inevitable; there was never a chance he'd survive the youth movement that has dominated the Jets' offseason.
He's a prideful athlete, freakishly obsessed with health and conditioning, but players usually don't get better in the twilight of their career. Only Tom Brady can do that.
But this decision, finalized Thursday after the Jets met with Marshall's agent at the scouting combine, went beyond age, money and performance. It also was about locker-room fit and culture.
The Jets will have a young team in 2017, and probably a young quarterback. It would have been a tough position for Marshall, not to mention those around him. His dominant personality can rub people the wrong way, as it did at times last season. (Sheldon Richardson would vouch for that.) Marshall likes to be the leader, the center of attention. Sometimes that can be a good thing -- it shields teammates from pressure and scrutiny -- but it can be a negative too. He needs to be on a winning team with a strong quarterback. There's no doubt he can help a playoff-caliber team.
Coach Todd Bowles needs to rebuild the team chemistry, and he can do that by giving younger players the chance to develop into leaders.
Marshall was a terrific addition in 2015 because he fit nicely on a veteran team that won 10 games. I'd rank his performance that year (109 catches, 1,502 yards) as one of the top three individual seasons on offense that I've witnessed in 28 years of covering the Jets. It was right up there with Vinny Testaverde's 29 touchdown passes in 1998 and Curtis Martin's rushing crown in 2004.
But Marshall showed signs of slowing down last season. Obviously, the quarterback situation was a mess, which didn't help any of the pass catchers, but opposing scouts felt Marshall didn't separate as well as he did in 2015. His catch percentage, based on 59 receptions and 128 targets, was only 46.7 percent, 143rd among 144 qualifying players.
There are conflicting versions on how this went down. One source told me Marshall, who has gone his entire career without reaching the postseason, asked to be released because he wants to play for a contender. The Jets, out of respect for Marshall, may let that play out as the narrative, but I think they wanted to move on as well. You just don't cut a player because he wants out.
How they got to this point doesn't matter. The bottom line is, Marshall is gone. The Jets can survive at receiver without him. They have ascending players such as Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, and maybe Eric Decker (hip/shoulder surgery) can get back on the field at some point before September.
The Marshall era is over after two years. It'll be a lot quieter in the locker room.