Others got more money, but none of the Panthers RFA tenders made quite the statement as the one received by CB Richard Marshall.
Tendered at the second-round level of $1.759 million, Marshall’s making a nice raise over last year ($535,000), but far from what he’s looking for. Fact is, he’s been in search of a payday for several years. His former agent, Steve Feldman, once boasted that Marshall was going to get the biggest defensive back contract in the league when he hit free agency, and that was before Marshall was even a starter. But with the uncapped year rules in place, Marshall’s stuck with restricted status this spring. Of course, the fact Marshall fired Feldman in the past year and signed on with noted deal-maker Drew Rosenhaus also speaks to his desire for more coin.
It’s not that the Panthers don’t like him, it’s just that it’s unlikely they’re looking to pay two premier corner contracts. With Chris Gamble ringing the bell to the tune of six years, $53.5 million in 2008, it’s hard to imagine them giving out an equivalent (or bigger) contract to Marshall.
If they’d have tendered him at the first-round level of $2.521 million, it’s extremely unlikely another team would have made an offer. This way, the Panthers have the opportunity to match whatever deal Rosenhaus comes back to them with, or get something in return if it’s too rich.
And considering how thin the cornerback market is, it’s reasonable to think Marshall could get some play from another team. Beyond Houston’s Dunta Robinson and New England’s Leigh Bodden, there’s a scarcity of starting-caliber corners out there.
Tendering Marshall lower than anticipated also explains their decision to use a tender at all on reserve corner C.J. Wilson. Could they have kept a guy who played only seven games as a special teamer for less than $1.101 million? They could have. But that would have left them dangerously thin at the position, with just Gamble, Captain Munnerlyn and former practice-squader Marcus Walker on the roster.
It’s also important to note that Ron Meeks’ Tampa 2-style defense isn’t as dependent on top-shelf corners as other systems, so they could get away with a lesser coverage player as long as he’s smart and a sure tackler. They once went to the Super Bowl playing a lot of Tampa 2 with Reggie Howard and Terry Cousin on the corners, so it can be done with cheaper help.