AFC East: Tiki Barber

Take your pick: Burress or Barber?

July, 5, 2011
Connections have been made between the AFC East and two out-of-favor former New York Giants.

Wide receiver Plaxico Burress could be a fit for the New York Jets or a desperate Miami Dolphins offense. Running back Tiki Barber, despite his age and rustiness, could offer help as a third-down specialist for the Dolphins or New England Patriots.

Which player has the better chance of a) making legitimate impact, and b) not embarrassing himself? bloggers Pat Yasinskas and Dan Graziano took sides in the latest "Hot Button" debate.

Yasinskas sides with Barber:
Barber didn't limp away from the game with an injury, as so many running backs have. He just walked away and entered a career in broadcasting. That didn't work out, but Barber hasn't taken a hit in four years. His legs have had time to recover.

He also seems to be highly motivated to make this comeback, and there's little doubt he's in top shape. That's why I'd sign him with only a couple of conditions attached.

Graziano would rather have Burress:
Burress, I can find a use for. I don't think he's going to come in and be my No. 1 wideout. But I do know he's still huge, and I have no reason to doubt that he can still catch. And if I'm an NFL team with good receivers but without that big-bodied guy who can go up and outfight defenders for the ball in the end zone (looking at you, Eagles), I'm offering Burress a very specific job that has a chance to make him look good and help me get to the Super Bowl.

I agree with Graziano on this one and agree with his point that when it comes to athletes who have something to prove, I'll take the guy who has a chip on his shoulder over the one who's motivated by his fear of oblivion.

Dolphins, Pats possibilities for Tiki Barber?

June, 20, 2011
In taking a look at landing spots for free-agent running back Tiki Barber, senior writer John Clayton includes a pair of AFC East teams among five possibilities.

Clayton considers the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots to be legitimate options, rating them Nos. 3 and 5 because they could use a complementary back who does what Barber can.

On the Dolphins, Clayton writes: "Coach Tony Sparano has to decide if he can bring Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown back to the roster. Neither back, though, fills the role of pass-catcher. The Dolphins plan to remain a running team, so it wouldn't hurt to have a veteran back with Barber's experience in big games."

On the Patriots, Clayton writes: "No coach in football appreciates older backs as much as Bill Belichick. Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor are 35. Sammy Morris is 34. If Faulk retires or the Patriots don’t re-sign him, Faulk's role in the Patriots' backfield fits Barber’s skills."

Parcells, Bledsoe and the Hall of Fame

February, 9, 2011
I once heard Tom Donahoe, the former Buffalo Bills president and general manager, call quarterback Drew Bledsoe a future Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Then again, Donahoe used to say a lot of things.

I was reminded of this when taking a glance at players who will make their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2012.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan, who's on the Hall of Fame selection committee and last weekend was elected president of the Pro Football Writers Association, blogged the top newcomers to consider the next few years.

[+] EnlargeBill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaBill Parcells and his former quarterback Drew Bledsoe will be on the Hall of Fame ballot next year.
The lists are helpful in speculating when fan favorites such as Andre Reed and Curtis Martin will get their Canton calls. They both were finalists this year -- Reed for the fifth time, Martin for the first -- but weren't added to the 2011 induction class Saturday.

Perhaps that development was fitting for Martin because his coach with the New England Patriots and New York Jets will be on the ballot again. They could get in together in 2012.

Bill Parcells has been a finalist twice, but not since 2002 because rules for coaches changed. They now must wait five years from their last game to be eligible for induction, and Parcells returned to the sidelines with the Dallas Cowboys in 2003.

Is Parcells a Hall of Famer? I know Miami Dolphins fans aren't too thrilled with him these days, but he did add to an already remarkable legacy -- two championships, different teams to the Super Bowl, a few organizational turnarounds -- by guiding the Dolphins from 1-15 to the AFC East title as their football operations boss.

Also on the ballot next year will be Bledsoe, running backs Corey Dillon and Tiki Barber, fullback Mike Alstott, guard Will Shields and coaches Bill Cowher and Marty Schottenheimer.

Bledsoe had a fine career with the Patriots, Bills and Cowboys and ranks eighth all-time in passing yards. But he was a Pro Bowler only four times and never was first-team All-Pro. Bledsoe was helpful in getting the Patriots their first championship, so he does have a ring. But that was Tom Brady's team.

Dillon also was a four-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots. He ranks 17th in rushing yards and never led the league in a major rushing category.

Schottenheimer played for the Bills and Patriots before winning 61 percent of his regular-season games as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers. His 200 victories rank sixth all-time, but his 5-23 playoff record will hurt.

That group of first-time candidates -- plus the newcomers for 2013 -- bodes well for Reed. There won't be any new receivers for him to box out. He already has jockeyed ahead of contemporaries Cris Carter and Tim Brown by making the cut from 15 to 10 in the selection process the past two years. Carter and Brown haven't.

Gaughan highlighted first-year players for next few classes.

2013: Quarterback Vinny Testaverde, offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Michael Strahan.

2014: Running back Shaun Alexander, receiver Marvin Harrison, linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety Rodney Harrison and coaches Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Mike Holmgren -- if they don't return to sideline work.

2015: Quarterback Kurt Warner, receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, tackles Orlando Pace and Walter Jones and linebacker Junior Seau.