It also worked in Marshall's favor that some NFL executives have come to regard No. 1 draft choices as almost more trouble than they're worth. The dollar packages are high, and many rookies aren't signed by the time training camps open. "You choose a No. 1 to fill an immediate need," says New Orleans G.M. Jim Finks, "but you aren't going to fill it if the guy isn't in camp."
It didn't hurt that Marshall's Washington-based agent, Richard Bennett, who also was the architect of the Thompson deal, represents a dozen or so Redskins, including linebackers Neal Olkewicz and Monte Coleman and four All-Pros, wideouts Art Monk and Gary Clark, cornerback Darrell Green and offensive tackle Joe Jacoby. Bennett and Beathard know each other quite well, which made things easier. Washington was the first choice of both Bennett and Marshall.
"I wouldn't have minded staying in Chicago," Marshall, who made $400,000 in 1987, said Friday night. "We'd been talking contract with the Bears, but they told my agent his demands were ridiculous. I preferred to play in Washington. When you're a linebacker, you look at who you're lining up behind, and I'll have Dexter Manley and Darryl Grant in front of me on the right side. The Redskins' whole defensive line is great... this unit could be more powerful than the one I played on in the last few years.
"The Bears tried to get me to drop the no-trade provision in the deal I'd signed with Washington. They got Walter Pay-ton to talk to me about it. He called me from Phoenix. I thought there was someone listening in on the speaker phone. I said, 'Walter, if they want to ask me, they don't need you to do it for them.'
"Without the no-trade, they could have signed me and then traded me for higher draft choices. It wouldn't have been right. I made a deal with the Skins. I want to be better than I was for the last four years. I know I've got it in me. I think I can make NFL Player of the Year. That's my goal, and I won't stop until I get there."
So Bennett called Beathard, who told him he would get back to him after he had consulted his people. Joe Gibbs, the Redskins' coach, was interested in a player of Marshall's caliber. Jack Kent Cooke, the owner, said he would come up with the money. Cooke's son, John, and Beathard handled the detailed negotiations with Bennett. Meanwhile, Beathard and Gibbs got out the depth charts and looked for the right place for Marshall.
"I would guess he'd be playing the right side, the weak side, just as he did in Chicago," says Beathard. "He's a great blitzer and cover guy. He can run stride for stride with wideouts. Coleman is coming off a fine year as our right linebacker, but he's good at playing the power side, the tight-end side, too." That would leave Mel Kaufman, the left linebacker, as the odd man out, or give Washington greater depth at the position, depending on how you look at it.
Mike McCaskey, the president of the Bears, said he tried to match the Redskins' salary offer and then work a trade, "but I didn't get very far. Wilber wanted Chicago or Washington and no one else. A guaranteed contract of this size would weaken our club. We regard this as another challenge along the road to our ultimate goal—getting into the Super Bowl again."
As soon as the Bears let it be known that they wouldn't match Washington's offer, rumors started flying in Phoenix regarding other free agents. The first involved Randall Cunningham, 25, quarterback of the Philaelphia Eagles. "I got a call from his agent, Jim Steiner," said the Los Angeles Raiders' managing general partner, Al Davis. "He called me about seven o'clock at night and asked me if I was interested. I said, 'What are the numbers?' He didn't have any. I'd never talked to the guy in my life. He was just putting out feelers. Then he lets it get out that we're interested in his guy. Right now I would say no, we're not interested in Randall Cunningham."
The second rumor was more logical—Andre Tippett, 28, the New England Patriot All-Pro outside linebacker, to the San Francisco 49ers, who have the 25th draft pick. The Niners are looking for outside rushers. The Patriots, deeply in debt, are looking to move high-salaried players and cut back the payroll.