Now that Plaxico Burress is a free man, having been released from prison Monday morning, he's also an NFL free agent. So where will Burress -- who has nearly 8,000 career receiving yards and the Super Bowl XLII-winning touchdown grab on his résumé -- end up in 2011? We asked our panel of experts, and to say the answers varied would be an understatement.
Return to Giants would be perfectAfter all is said and done, Burress should return to the Giants for the 2011 season. The team kept tabs on the former Super Bowl hero during his time in prison and still offers the best opportunity for Burress to revive his career.
This should be an important consideration in Burress' mind if he intends to enjoy a productive run during the second act of his career. In making the comparison to Michael Vick's plight after his incarceration, it's important to remember that the quarterback was a shell of himself during his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles, and it took him awhile to regain his form. It's very likely that Burress will endure a similar progression in his return.
Burress certainly will have a number of teams clamoring for his services, but if he wants to enjoy an extended return to the game, he should strongly consider a return to the Giants.
Eagles make the most senseThe team that signs Burress must have the following qualities: 1) a well-established coach with a strong personality and firm grip on his locker room; 2) a talented quarterback who can take full advantage of the receiver's skills; 3) wideouts who are capable of stretching defenses and whom Burress can complement.
That doesn't make for a very long list, but the Eagles should be at the top of it. Andy Reid already has demonstrated, with Michael Vick, that he can bring out the best of a highly talented player who has been in prison. The Eagles' speedsters, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, are perfect for a passing game that would add a larger, stronger horizontal and red-zone target in Burress.
But you also can make fairly strong cases for Burress to end up with the Jets. Rex Ryan wouldn't have a problem handling a player whose off-the-field troubles got him booted off New York's other team, and Mark Sanchez would benefit from the receiver's presence. He could even land back with his original team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the right coach (Mike Tomlin) and quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger).
Go back to New York, but not with GiantsBurress will be carefully evaluated by NFL teams. If it's determined that he still can run, look for him to land with a veteran squad -- one led by a strong coach and ready to compete for a Super Bowl. It also must be an organization that's willing to take calculated gambles.
Hmmm ... sounds like New York will beckon again. This time, it will be the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.
He'd provide veteran target for young RamsWell, everyone seems to believe Burress will go to the Eagles. I thought the Miami Dolphins would be a possibility for a bit, but I'm leaning toward the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams just don't have anyone like Burress, and coach Steve Spagnuolo obviously is very familiar with the receiver's unique abilities from their days in New York. Burress could provide young quarterback Sam Bradford with a big target to offset the speedier Danny Amendola and Donnie Avery.
That said, the biggest problem the Rams had at receiver last season was health. Signing a soon-to-be 34-year-old who hasn't played in a long time doesn't seem to be the right Band-Aid for that issue. But Burress still could be a decent addition for a young, up-and-coming team like St. Louis.
If Plax proves he's in shape, Redskins could be fitBurress has a number of hurdles to overcome before signing with any team. Until the lockout is lifted, he actually has time to get himself ready for a workout. Any team interested in Burress really has to see where he is physically.
Burress also will be up against Terrell Owens (72 receptions in 2010), Randy Moss (28), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (30) and Santana Moss (93), guys who are over 30 but played last season and are also free agents. Chad Ochocinco and Carolina's Steve Smith also could join that list.
If he's in shape and able to run two days in a row -- which is how teams should test him when working him out -- then Burress might be a fit with the Washington Redskins, or with the Jets should they lose Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. I think a number of teams will show some interest, but none will be willing to do a deal with guaranteed money. Burress will have to make it through a full camp and into the season before the money can grow.
Seahawks known for taking chances like thisI'm going out on a big limb here and just playing a hunch, but the Seattle Seahawks could be the landing spot for Burress. He'd do well to get far away from New York, the epicenter of his troubles.
The Seahawks considered Terrell Owens and Brandon Marshall last season, but Burress would come much cheaper than those guys. And the team recently found success with a project at wide receiver, Mike Williams, but still is looking for offensive weapons.
General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are willing to take a gamble on a talented player with some baggage (LenDale White, anyone?), and owner Paul Allen is willing to heavily invest in his team, so Burress would be a prime candidate for an incentive-laden contract.
I can't help but wonder if the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers might not be dark horses as this situation unfolds over the upcoming weeks. Overall, I don't anticipate a shortage of teams investigating Burress. There will be demand.
Burress would be great addition to Brady's bunchIt wouldn't surprise me at all to see Burress end up with the New England Patriots. They've had a history of acquiring veteran players, like a Fred Taylor, from time to time. Burress also could provide them the big-bodied edge receiver who would further diversify the offense and give them someone to physically measure up against some of the AFC East's bigger and talented cornerbacks.
New England is the type of organization that would support Burress as he transitions back into society and the NFL. Burress wouldn't be asked to do too much right away, either. From Burress' perspective, an opportunity to play with Tom Brady probably would seem quite appealing.