When Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin addressed the media regarding Chad Johnson's release on Monday, he was sure to point out that it wasn't just the receiver's weekend arrest that forced the team to sever ties.
The troublesome Johnson was not just "a good fit," Philbin said Monday.
But another receiver on the free agent market would be a great fit for the Dolphins system.
Plaxico Burress may not have the most sterling reputation, either, but the formerly troubled receiver has paid his debt to society. And after a year spent in the limelight of New York, he still looks to have both the talent and composure needed to succeed in the NFL.
Burress' numbers in 2011 weren't exactly the staggering stats he had put up in years past. But the 10-year veteran more than served the purpose that the Jets had anticipated.
Rex Ryan brought Burress into Jets camp last August, less than four months after the receiver was released from a New York state prison, with the appearance of filling out his receiving corps. But the coach's plan was much more intricate.
Burress was coming to New York with the expectation of providing a deep threat opposite star wideout Santonio Holmes. But along with easing the pressure, Burress was also expected to offer a big target for quarterback Mark Sanchez to look toward inside the red zone. So, while Plaxico may have seemed to underachieve in 2011, given his statistics, the moderated expectations for him were more than achieved.
In 16 games for the Jets last season, Burress caught 46 balls for 612 yards, but the most important stat was that the 6-foot-5 behemoth hauled in eight touchdowns — his third highest total in a single season. While his annual numbers weren't quite up to the standard that Burress had set during nine seasons spent between the Steelers and Giants, his expected role of "red-zone threat" was more than fulfilled.
So as Miami parts ways with one troubled receiver, it may want to take a flyer on another.
First off, Burress is not nearly the loose cannon that Johnson can be, nor does he offer the constant headaches that come with the unpredictable Johnson. And while Plaxico may not provide a steady dose of chemistry or camaraderie in a locker room, he's a stable presence with some unbelievable natural gifts.
Then, of course, come the football skills. Johnson displayed a level of diminishing talent during his lone season in New England, where the six-time Pro Bowler managed just 15 catches and a lone touchdown — both career lows by far. Burress, conversely, had quite a productive season and only seemed to improve with each passing week.
The reality for both receivers is that never again will either consistently provide the 10-catch, 100-yard type output they averaged at one point in their careers. And as Johnson and Burress only grow older, at ages 34 and 35, respectively, their skill sets will only continue to diminish. But while Johnson appears almost over the hill at this point, Burress does seem to have something left to offer as a veteran presence for Miami's young core.
The Dolphins could use a veteran to help their young receivers, as their current starting tandem — Davone Bess and Legedu Naane — have ever had more than 1,000 yards or five touchdowns in a single season. Meanwhile, Burress has accomplished both of those feats together in four of his 10 seasons. And while the Dolphins look to develop their first-round pick and hopeful franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill, they'll need some pieces around him to keep his confidence high.
Sure, Burress may not be the ideal person for the job, but at this point he's definitely the best one available. So, as Miami continues rolling out a crew of first, second and third-year guys for Tannehil to target during the preseason, the temptation of bringing in a proven commodity like Burress may just become too enticing to pass up. As it should.
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