In two weeks, the former New York Giants wide receiver will be released from Oneida Correctional Facility in upstate New York, at which point he'll look to resume his NFL career — pending, of course, the end of the lockout. Interest in Burress will likely be limited, though, as you'd expect it to be for a wide receiver that's set to turn 34 prior to the start of the 2011 season. But when teams are once again able to sign free agents, the embattled wideout provides a low-risk, high-reward gamble.
Sure, at 34 years old and with two years away from the game, Burress may never return to his 1,000-yard form. In fact, it'd be shocking if he did. But what is there to lose in considering adding Burress if you're the Pats?
Whatever his price tag is, and it surely won't be high because of the skepticism teams have, it'll be far less than the potential gain.
Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles, whose decision to bring quarterback Michael Vick onboard upon his release from prison proved to be one of the best in recent memory.
Of course, Burress is not Michael Vick. He's nearly three years older than Vick and he's a wide receiver, a position that's seemingly more difficult for a veteran player to thrive at. Therefore, comparing the two would be unfair to Vick, who received the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award this past season.
But Vick's rise back to prominence does serve as a reminder that good things can come to those who think outside the box.
Burress will never be a team's primary target like he had been with both the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. But he could be a nice addition to a team that lacks size throughout its current receiving corps.
Wes Welker and Deion Branch are both listed at 5-foor-9. Brady has good rapport with each, but against teams with physical secondaries, like the Jets, he and his receivers could benefit from a more physical receiver being on the field. At 6-foot-5, Burress could complement tight end Rob Gronkowski quite nicely as a big red-zone target.
When the Pats traded away Randy Moss last season, it raised a lot of eyebrows because he was not only their biggest downfield threat, but because he had the ability to use his height to go up and get the ball.
As is the case with Vick, it's not fair to Moss to compare Burress to him — Moss is one of the best wide receivers the league has ever seen. But the Patriots' decision during the 2007 NFL draft to acquire Moss, who had earned a reputation as a loose cannon, was an instance of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gambling a bit. Like a potential Burress signing, the risk was low and the reward was high, and the move worked out for the best.
Burress caught 70 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2007, his last full season in the NFL. You might also recall that he caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl versus the Patriots that season, but that's neither here nor there.
The next season, while Burress' averages dropped a bit in 10 games, he still played effectively before shooting himself in the leg — literally and figuratively — and subsequently serving jail time.
All indications are that Burress has remained in great shape throughout his time behind bars — perhaps only needing to bulk up a bit before returning to the gridiron. And maybe, just maybe, the time away from the physical grind of the NFL could be beneficial to Burress' almost 34-year-old legs. Either way, it's Burress' frame, hands and poise that would be most useful to the New England offense.
No, Plaxico Burress is not the answer to any existing questions on the Patriots roster. And no, signing or not signing him is not going to make or break the Patriots' season. But given the minimal risk, he should at least be a piece to consider when putting together the 2012 Super Bowl puzzle.
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