ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Ever since inside linebacker Brandon Marshall joined the Broncos' practice squad in September 2013, it was clear that there was only one place that he wanted to be.
Now he'll be in that spot for the foreseeable future.
Monday night, the Broncos agreed to terms with Marshall on a four-year contract extension that will keep him off the market next year and ensure that he remains one of the ringleaders on the defense.
"We're thrilled to agree to terms with Brandon on a four-year extension," Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said. "Brandon's become an integral part of our defense over the last three years and has put in a lot of hard work into becoming such a key player on our team.
"We congratulate Brandon and look forward to him being a Bronco for many more years."
It is a symbiotic deal. The Broncos keep a key component of their top-ranked defense, and Marshall stays in the only place he truly wanted to be.
"I love it here," he said last month. "Since I first got here in 2013, they've treated me like family -- even when I was on the practice squad."
Marshall was able to help the defense grow from its injury-ravaged performance in 2013 to its dominant performance last year. He believes that the mindset of the defense -- which he has helped sustain -- will allow the unit to stay at its accustomed level.
"Absolutely, and if you look at the guys [who got big contracts], nobody got their money and relaxed," Marshall said on May 26. "They got their money and they said, 'I've still got something to prove.'
"They paid high-quality individuals as far as the work ethic and the mindset, because sometimes you might pay a guy, and he's like, 'OK, cool. I'm set.'"
But that's not the case with the Broncos -- and he believes it won't be the case for him.
"Guys hold each other accountable, and we've got the perfect culture to be great for a long time."
Re-signing Marshall was always a strong possibility. Elway made keeping Marshall for the long term one of his top offseason priorities, and the free-agent departure of Danny Trevathan amplified the need to maintain continuity at one of the two ILB spots that are the core of the Broncos' defensive mayhem.
But keeping Marshall actually symbolizes something more to the team's planning and philosophy. Even though the Broncos didn't draft him, they nurtured him from the practice squad to his current status as one of the sport's best inside linebackers. He is the epitome of the value and benefits of having faith in young, unproven players.
That's what Marshall was during the summer of 2014, when he was a backup to Trevathan at weakside linebacker in the 4-3 scheme the Broncos ran at the time. Trevathan succumbed to the first of three injuries he would suffer to his knee and the bones around it that year.
Brandon Marshall and Antonio Smith combine for a sack, and then celebrate, one frame at a time. (photos by Gabriel Christus)
Marshall stepped in and ensured the defense didn't miss a step. He was so effective that when Trevathan returned, the Broncos reshuffled the unit to keep Marshall on the field.
That's what a great player does. When he takes the baton, he sprints so fast with it that you cannot wrest it from his grasp.
Trevathan would suffer further injuries, so Marshall was back on the weak side for the rest of 2014, but when 2015 arrived and Wade Phillips installed a 3-4 alignment, they were together as one of the best inside-linebacker tandems in the league.
Now Marshall is on his own, with young players like Todd Davis, Corey Nelson and Zaire Anderson grappling for the chance to play alongside him. He wants to continue tackling everything in sight. But he also wants to lead, and showed what kind of example he wanted to set by taking part in offseason work this year -- an unusual choice given that he didn't sign his second-round tender in the hopes of getting a long-term contract.
Marshall said that he signed an injury waiver so that he would not be placed on the non-football injury list if he suffered an offseason injury that kept him from playing in the regular season.
"To stay away, that's not me," Marshall said May 26. "I feel comfortable. I feel good being here."
And now he's poised to remain in Denver for a while.
Linebacker Brandon Marshall agreed to terms on four-year contract extension with the Denver Broncos through 2020. Relive some of his best moments. (Photos by AP)