The sports headline of the day was the release of former NFL receiver Plaxico Burress from a New York jail. Best known as “Plax,” he was understandably flowing with pure emotion at being a free man again. Burress was released at 9 a.m. from Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., where he served close to two years stemming from a concealed weapons conviction. He received a big hug from agent Drew Rosenhaus as he was quickly driven to a local resort to see his wife Tiffany, son Elijah, and daughter Giovanna (born while he was incarcerated).
When addressing several members of the media that witnessed him make the walk from behind bars, Burress made the following statement: “As far as football is concerned, if and when everything gets settled, when they get back on the field, I’ll be ready.” He went on to say, “I just want to thank God for bringing me through one of the most trying times in my life. It’s a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day to be reunited with my family. I want to go home and spend some quality time with them. I’d like to thank everybody for their prayers and words of encouragement. I’d like to thank all my fans all around the world for the thousands of letters, for their unwavering support. As far as football is concerned, if and when everything gets settled, when they get back on the field, I’ll be ready.”
Rosenhaus said that his client would travel to his home in South Florida and immediately begin training with other players to begin his NFL comeback, and said, “Burress isn’t ruling out a possible reunion with the New York Giants.”
Like Michael Vick and many other citizens that have paid their debt to society, he will receive a second chance at freedom that a lot of people take for granted, and work to resume his career in the National Football League.
Let’s take a strong look at the possible landing spots for Burress. The teams were chosen based off roster needs, fit and the value he would bring to a club.
“We are going to be open to all 32 teams,” Rosenhaus said. “Ultimately this will be Plax’s decision, not mine. I am here to help him pick the best spot and get the very best contract. And that is what we will do.”
Philadelphia: A team with many weapons, starting with quarterback Michael Vick, receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, along with running backs LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. This team is missing a key component like Burress, who brings a major red-zone threat to complement the exceptional speed at multiple positions. In Andy Reid, the Eagles have a stern head coach with a strong hold on the roster and direction of the organization.
St. Louis: The Rams might have the best young elite quarterback in the NFL in Sam Bradford, a Pro-Bowl running back in Steven Jackson and the most consistent receiver in Danny Amendola. After that the list of names on the Rams’ roster is long. These players either haven’t been able to stay healthy (Donnie Avery, Danario Alexander) or are coming off knee injuries (Mark Clayton). The team drafted two possession receivers (Greg Salas, Austin Pettis) with high ceiling and upside.
There are a few players that lack consistency (Laurent Robinson, Brandon Gibson) along with a second-year player that struggled to find his way as a rookie and stay healthy despite some very good special teams play (Mardy Gilyard). Adding a red-zone threat brings immediate value. The question is whether the Rams should groom the picks for the future or add Burress and take a roster spot and reps away from young players. Coach Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and saw Burress up close in living color. He understands and has the best insight into Burress’ mindset, personality and his relationship with others in the locker room and his professional acumen.
Others that are rumored to have heavy interest are the Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, New York Jets and his former team, the New York Giants.
“I wouldn’t rule out any team, I wouldn’t rule out the Giants, I wouldn’t rule out any club,” Rosenhaus said to reporters. “I really won’t talk about specific teams because I don’t want to hurt his position. As far as the Giants, my personal opinion is he wouldn’t rule them out. I certainly wouldn’t.
“Before the lockout started and during that very brief window, right around the time of the draft, the feedback was excellent,” said Rosenhaus, who along with all other agents is not allowed to talk to teams until the lockout is lifted. “Plaxico is going to be a top free agent, there are going to be multiple teams interested in signing him. I expect him to get a good contract, I expect him to absolutely be playing. I think he’ll be coveted. He’ll be one of our top free agents.”
I took an in-depth look at the three wideouts who could be available whenever the lockout ends: Burress, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. I compared talent levels. These are the four areas of major concern when adding free-agent players to a roster:
Character – Check character history complete background with all prior teams and any criminal activities, suspensions with the league and how they fit in the locker room and professionals that work hard on their craft (weight room, offseason workouts, punctual to all meetings).
Playtime – The percentage of playtime is huge and a direct reflection of the future. It is also extremely important that the player has special teams playtime as well.
Production – It is hard to have good production without playtime.
Injury History – Gather all documented previous injury history from combine data moving forward to most current.
Burress: A tall possession receiver that is a threat with short to intermediate production. He was a playmaker and difference-maker with the knack for making the big catch in prime-time games, and dominating the red zone. The big question is that he has not played football in two seasons. Has he lost a step? He wasn’t fast to begin with. Route-running skills are like riding a bike but regaining your football balance and quickness takes a while. Just ask Vick, who didn’t get his back until last season, a year later. Good toughness across the middle.
Moss: A tall receiver that still possesses the ability to stretch the field deep with speed. Father time is knocking on the door. He is stiff in movement to break down and lacks burst in out of his cuts on comebacks, out routes and stick routes. Non-blocker on the edge and playtime and production has fallen off the last couple of seasons. You can’t argue his past playmaking ability, but his skill set has declined.
Owens: Another receiver with size, he possesses good speed and is a playmaker outside on the edge, but alligator arms and the willingness to compete for balls on inside routes is inconsistent. Coming off a good season with the Cincinnati Bengals. While the team was losing he was shining big, once the glow diminishes, problems with attitude come up and he is a distraction on the field and in the locker room (which is well documented).
If I had to rank the three it would be Owens, Burress, then Moss. Burress is No. 2 because he has not played for two seasons. When he left the game he was a player that teams struggled to stop and the Giants’ balloon was slowly deflated without him.
There is one other receiver that might steal the show in a possible trade and that is Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. New head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney have a great poker face, but it’s all a bluff about keeping the Pro-Bowl receiver. Smith will be traded to the highest bidder. He brings a competitive nature each and every day, in practice or in games. Playtime is good, but injury history might be a concern for several teams. A triple threat as a receiver, punt and kickoff return man, he still has the speed to stretch the secondary, create separation from the line of scrimmage and climbs the ladder to compete above the defender with game-breaking, difference- making skill set. Smith would be the number No. 1 receiver of these four and would help teams like St. Louis, Washington and the New York Jets.
With 800 free agents in limbo and many more college free agents sitting and waiting as well, the mad scramble will begin when the lockout ends. When it does, Burress, Moss, Owens and Smith with be some of the major names mentioned in trades or free-agent signings. The questions are who will go where and which one will have the biggest impact.