The last few years in Plaxico Burress’ life has seemed more like a Biggie Smalls play list. “Who Shot Ya” and “One More Chance” come to mind. We all know the answer to the former, but the question on my mind concerns the latter. The only people willing to give Plaxico a shot in the last 2 years were the Jets and himself. But, there has got to be somebody willing to give him one more chance. He has too much that he can contribute to an NFL roster.
I’ve held on to this article for a month now before I finally decided to post it. The reason for the wait is due to me being so baffled at his joblessness. I kept thinking that something would leak about him demanding too much money, a severe injury that has gone unreported, or maybe that he wasn’t a good locker room guy. I’ve made numerous phone calls in the last month and I still have nothing that would justify him not landing a one year deal. I thought that he may have been blackballed, but for what?
There are guys that are still in the NFL who killed people with their vehicle, shot up clubs, shot at former friends, etc. Shooting your own self in the leg seems reckless and irresponsible, but lacks the malice that these other individuals showed. He’s represented by Drew Rosenhaus, so who knows, maybe his money demand is a little ridiculous for a man who’s about to turn 35. It would surprise me though, seeing as we are so late in the game. He’s missed all of the OTA’s and mini-camps.
Could teams really think that he has nothing to offer? I’m not buying that. He spent two years in prison and came out during a lockout shortened off-season, learned a new offense, new team, and played with one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. The Jets passing attack only averaged 206.1 yards a game last season. Even with all of that stacked against him, Plaxico went out and caught 45 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns.
In contrast, Chad Johnson played with Tom Brady and caught 15 passes for 276 yards and 1 touchdown. Burress is 5 months older than Chad, but has a year less of NFL wear and tear on his body, due to the two years spent in prison. Chad has never been a good route runner and now he’s lost a step. He needed that extra step and athleticism to get separation from coverage. Plaxico has a natural built in advantage of being 6’5. To my knowledge that hasn’t changed and he would still have a half a foot advantage over the average NFL cornerbacks. That could be beneficial in the red zone, end zone jump balls, or however a team seems fit to use his height and hands in situational passing downs. That’s the key, I’m not looking for a team to add him via some long term, huge contract. He’s a situational receiving threat that will give the offense an advantage in multiple looks.
There are a number of teams that would benefit from Plaxico’s services. Some of these teams need receiving height, some need a veteran presence, and others just need to add depth. It’s almost July, so Burress shouldn’t come with a hefty price tag this late in the game. These teams aren’t looking to add a starter as their first or second option. Burress would fill a certain role. He’ll come off the bench fresh and can line up at multiple receiving spots depending on the need of the offense at that time. He would be the James Harden of the team, if you will (minus the beard and the disappearance in the finals). There are several teams that I feel make a lot of sense and I see him fitting a certain role with them.
Buffalo Bills - The Bills are a team that are about to make a huge leap this season. The problem is that they play in a division with one of the deepest, most talented teams in the NFL. They need to take advantage of every mismatch possible. Everyone knows how much the New England Patriots secondary struggled last season. Buffalo could add Plaxico as another veteran presence in the wide receiver group. Stevie Johnson is a great key piece in the wide receiver puzzle. Marcus Easley and Donald Jones are expected to do big things, but both are coming off of injuries. Plaxico could step in as an alternate piece and also give some quality on-field mentoring to David Nelson. He would see limited action in Buffalo, but would be a much needed red zone threat. The decrease in reps would keep him fresh and get the most out of the 35 year old. His target workload for the Bills’ season would be about 30-35 catches, 450 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Houston Texans - The Texans finally earned their respect last season. In the end though, depth issues caught up with them. When looking for a team that is severely lacking experience at receiver, look no further than Houston. Andre Johnson has been steadily nicked up the last few season and Kevin Walter doesn’t do much after catching the ball. Those two players are the only wide receivers of merit on the roster. Lestar Jean is expected to do big things in 2012, but hasn’t caught his first NFL reception yet. Houston drafted to young receivers in DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin, but the receiver position is one of the hardest to master as a rookie. The Texans don’t throw many end zone fades, but with Andre Johnson on the roster and adding Plaxico, it would be devasting to defend. Plaxico could dig into Walter’s reps and once again be situational. If AJ went down for an extended period of time or Jean wasn’t developing as planned, Burress could step into a bigger role. His target workload for the Texans’ season would be about about 50 receptions, for 600 yards and 7 touchdowns.
St Louis Rams - Sam Bradford has gotten the most out of Danario Alexander when he’s been healthy. The problem is that he’s never healthy. The Rams aren’t as deep at receiver as they would like to think. Danny Amendola is a very talented receiver, but also seems to struggle with staying on the field. The team has big plans for Brian Quick, but I believe his maturation process is going to be much longer than the Rams are hoping for. Brandon Gibson and Steve Smith are both solid complimentary pieces, but neither strike the fear into defenses. Plaxico can fill the role of Alexander and Quick in the event of developmental time for Quick and injuries to Alexander. What Danario does well, goes hand and hand with Plaxico’s game. Quick would learn a lot of tricks of the trade from Burress. Amendola, Smith, and Gibson would all feed off of Burress attention. His target workload under these events would be 40 catches, 550 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Cleveland Browns - Brandon Weeden loved that little end zone fade to Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State. This falls right into Plaxico’s strong suit. The Browns are far from complete at receiver. Greg Little has to fix his drops, but he’s the unquestioned number one option at receiver. Behind Little, the team is hoping for Mohamed Massaquoi to develop into a great second option. His numbers have decreased every season since his rookie year. I wouldn’t gamble on him being my second best option. Josh Cribbs may have his role decreased as a pure receiver, to keep value in his return game. Travis Benjamin was drafted to stretch the field, but that will be the strongest aspect of his game. Burress could fill a need here that would be for more than just depth and situational routes. He could strengthen this team and at a minimal cost. His target workload for the Browns would be 60 catches, 750 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Pittsburgh Steelers – I realize that the Steelers wanted to get younger at receiver and parted ways with Hines Ward, but it wasn’t just about age with Hines. Ward’s play in Pittsburgh was on par with Chad Johnson’s play in New England. Now, the Steelers roster may be a bit too young. After Jerricho Cotchery, the team’s oldest veteran receiver is Mike Wallace, who was drafted in 2009. Wallace and Antonio Brown are a great 1-2 combo, but Wallace is still waiting for his payday. Emmanuel Sanders has shown promise, but he’s only averaging 25 catches a season. Getting back to Cotchery, he hasn’t been the same player for the last few years. He only had 16 receptions last season for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns. A homecoming for Plaxico seems fitting. The Steelers’ new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, drafted a 6’5 receiver named Jonathan Baldwin, in Kansas City. He loves his big targets and I’m sure Ben Roethlisberger would get value out of the pick up. His target workload for the Steelers would be 45 catches, 550 yards and 7 touchdowns.
There are several other locations that would make sense for Burress. Actually, most teams would make sense for Burress. If the asking price is right, I don’t see how a team wouldn’t want to add a 6’5 guy that can still get open and catch. How many guys could sit in prison for two years, come out at the age of 34, learn a new offense, and get into conditioning well enough to catch 45 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns from a quarterback that barely passed for 200 yards a game and 26 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 56?