Plaxico Burress has told everyone who wants to listen that he’s a changed man. Shooting yourself in the leg and then being the center of a long, drawn-out spectacle in which you’re the public enemy for New York’s gun laws presumably has a way of changing a man.
Now that personal metamorphosis will be on display at a home field that’s shared by the same team he last played for, and in the same city that banished Burress for 18 months.
Burress signed a one-year contract with the Jets on Sunday that’s reportedly worth just over $3 million. The signing is the next chapter in another fairy tale NFL redemption story, one that saw our protagonist slowly and casually saunter from his jailed confinements to a warm and incredibly awkward embrace with agent Drew Rosenhaus. And that’s just great, isn’t it? A man being given the opportunity to turn his life around and resume working in some productive capacity (we hear Plax is pretty good at football) gives us that fuzzy feeling about the NFL.
Actually, it doesn’t, and not because we’re cold-hearted mutants incapable of feeling any human emotion. That storyline has been recycled, brought back into our kitchen in the form of a new milk jug, and then recycled again throughout the lockout when the desire for speculation left us grasping at little more than Plax and Tiki Barber. Now we can finally shift that focus to wondering about how Burress will fare on the football field in just over one month when games are played for real. And to answer that question, we’re still left to collectively shrug our shoulders.
There is no wide receiver comparison for what Burress is attempting. The instinctive reflex is to make a foolish attempt to compare the performance of a quarterback to the production of a wide receiver, but Michael Vick’s recent comeback journey is much different than the one Burress is about to embark on with the Jets.
Firstly, there’s the simple age factor. Vick was 30 years old by the time the 2009-10 season started and he took the field for the first time with the Eagles after serving a 23-month sentence. Burress will turn 35 on Aug. 12, an age when we typically begin to see receivers decline, and often rapidly (Terrell Owens, Randy Moss).
The team environment surrounding Vick’s comeback was also much different. Head coach Andy Reid was able to keep Vick hidden and sheltered as a backup quarterback during his first season in Philadelphia, a luxury Burress won’t have as a receiver. He’ll be asked to replace the soon-to-be departed Braylon Edwards opposite Santonio Holmes. Edwards is now reportedly high on Arizona’s list, while Burress’ arrival may have made Jerricho Cotchery expendable.
This is a low-risk signing, and if Burress fulfills his upside despite his age and absence, the Jets will be getting a player that’s at the very least the equivalent of Edwards for half of the yearly value. Those savings created the cap room to re-sign Antonio Cromartie.
If he can’t effectively fill Edwards’ overrated shoes, then Plax is gone after a year. And if his rested football mind and body experience a late-career renaissance, then the Jets can work out an extension to keep his long wingspan in New York.
Now we’ll just wait to see which Burress shows up.
GLS MOVE RATING: 8/10