Even with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots heading to Super Bowl LI this year, there is one area where the Patriots could improve offensively: wide receiver. The best wide receiver who will likely enter the NFL free agent market in 2017 is Brandon Marshall. The idea of Tom Brady hooking up with Brandon Marshall would make Patriots haters nauseous. All the more reason for New England to pursue the all-pro.
Brandon Marshall is technically still under contract with the Jets in 2017, but their split seems inevitable given the team’s current rebuilding state, and Marshall’s desire to play for a winner before the end of his career. A Brady/Marshall union would create for an interesting scenario in New England, and likely bring back memories of the Randy Moss days of old.
The Current Situation
At this point, it’s no secret that the Patriots continually make effective use of the players on their roster. As a cog in the Patriots high-efficiency offensive machine, even an undersized player like Julian Edelman with a 87.1 Height-Adjust Speed Score (HaSS) (23rd-percentile) can become a perennial target magnet evidenced by Edelman’s three 90-plus receptions seasons. Even a lesser athlete like Danny Amendola became fantasy-relevant in the second half of 2015.
The Patriots’ true top-target is oft-injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, who appears to be more of a luxury item than a necessity given the team’s success without him. Where Gronkowski is most useful however is down in the red zone, which is where 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver, and former Patriot Randy Moss was also found to be quite useful by Brady.
The Randy Moss-Brandon Marshall Parallel
During his time with the Patriots, Moss was one of the most heavily-targeted wide receivers down in the red zone. In his first year with the Patriots, Moss saw an unprecedented 46 targets inside the 20-yard line. By comparison, all Patriots receivers in 2016 combined for a total of 59 red zone targets. With Rob Gronkowski‘s health and future constantly in question, why not wish for another 6-foot-4, highly effective red zone receiver in 2017?
Enter championship starved, quarterback needy, Brandon Marshall. Marshall and Randy Moss are similar in size and end zone prowess. Though Marshall has been better than Moss at converting red zone targets into touchdowns. Throughout his career, Marshall has turned 27-percent of his red zone targets into touchdowns, while Moss converted 24-percent of his career red zone targets into touchdowns.
Randy Moss’ most efficient play in the red zone, of course came with the Patriots when he converted an absurd 40-percent of his red zone targets into touchdowns, something that is common for receivers and tight ends who are on the receiving end of a Tom Brady pass. Something that Marshall should want next season. During Moss’ first year in New England, Brady also enjoyed some of his greatest success as a quarterback, completing a career-high 68.9% of his passes, while also throwing for a career-best 50 touchdowns and 4,806 yards.
It’s no surprise that Marshall is as effective in the red zone as he is. His height makes him an easy target for any quarterback (he made Ryan Fitzpatrick millions in 2015), and his 114.7 Height-Adjusted Speed Score (HaSS) (114.7, 95-percentile) and 10.17 Catch Radius (81st-percentile) put him in the upper echelon among players at his position. Additionally, Marshall’s 134.6 SPARQ-x Score (98-percentile) is a true testimony to what he can do on the field/in the red zone, and are yet another reason why the Patriots and Marshall should team up next season.
Granted, with the addition of Malcolm Mitchell and the emergence of Chris Hogan in 2016, the Patriots feature an above-average WR corps without Brandon Marshall, However, given his history with massive, athletic receivers in the past, giving Brady a target like Marshall seems like a shot worth taking. New England has the salary cap space and an opportunity to establish itself as the greatest dynasty in NFL history. The Patriots should target Marshall, as the team targeted Randy Moss a decade ago, to help the franchise stay on top, rather than accepting the status quo.