NFC East: Plaxico Burress' future

Plaxico BurressStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesPlaxico Burress may have his eyes on a return to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Plaxico Burress is not Michael Vick, and because of this he should not -- cannot -- expect the same kind of opportunity. He is not a quarterback. He is not as young as Vick was two years ago. At his very best, Burress never thrilled a crowd or electrified an offense the way the on-the-field best of Vick has. So although the knuckleheaded crime for which Burress went to prison is almost certainly more forgivable than the calculated, unspeakable crimes for which Vick did his time, Burress is, ironically, likely to find the NFL less forgiving than Vick did.

That's why the Eagles make so much sense. If there's one organization in the NFL that might give Burress a chance based on something other than (or, more likely, in addition to) his potential value to the team, it's the one in Philadelphia, where Andy Reid gave Vick his post-prison opportunity and has reaped greater benefit than he ever imagined.

Brandon Jacobs, Burress' former Giants teammate, said Thursday that he talks with Burress once a week and thinks Burress will be an Eagle. Jacobs said that Burress still likes the Giants but wants a fresh start and that Burress' friendship with Vick is helping push him down I-95 to the City of Brotherly Love. Burress will get out of prison Monday, and because of the lockout, it will be a while before a team can sign him. But there are reports that Reid likes the idea of adding a receiver who can dominate with his size the way Burress can, and he would be a great fit on paper with the speedy, talented corps of receivers the Eagles already have in place.

Thing is, there exists a chance that Burress, who will turn 34 in August, won't be that good. That he won't be the same kind of player he was before he fired an unlicensed gun in a New York City nightclub and went away to prison for the past 21 months. And because of that very strong possibility, he needs to find a team that's willing to invest in him for slightly more altruistic reasons. The Eagles have recent track record with this, and Burress should count himself fortunate if they are in fact interested.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Reid's chief motives would be all selfless and high-minded. Reid's primary concern when evaluating this or any other potential personnel move is whether it's good for the Eagles. When he signed Vick in 2009, the biggest reason was that he believed he was adding a weapon that, when deployed in the correct situations, could help elevate his team over the Cowboys and Giants and win the NFC East.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick and Andy Reid
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesEagles coach Andy Reid reached out to Michael Vick. Will he do the same for Plaxico Burress?
But there was risk that Vick would not, so at least part of Reid's motivation was outreach to Vick the person, who needed help. And although Reid surely envisioned Vick helping as a player, there's no way he imagined what ended up happening. If he had, he wouldn't have installed Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback after trading Donovan McNabb. For the first year after the Eagles signed Vick, Reid and his coaching staff worked to help Vick improve as a quarterback without necessarily thinking he'd ever start at the position for their team. They are pleasantly surprised by the way it has all worked out, but they earned the benefit with hard, earnest, well-meaning work.

Reid could do the same thing with Burress. He is said to have a soft spot for trouble cases because of the legal problems his sons have endured, and the Vick case is stark proof that at least some aspect of sincere sympathy dwells in his heart. If Burress is looking for a team and a coach who will ask what they can do for him as opposed to asking only what he can do for them, he probably needs to do what Jacobs thinks he'll do and take whatever talents he has left to South Philly.

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