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Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Will AFC East recycle Plaxico Burress?

By Tim Graham

Plaxico Burress is scheduled to get out of the pokey June 6.

That would give the former New York Giants receiver plenty of time to get on a roster and play a full season. If a labor standoff doesn't compress the summer workout schedule, Burress also would have a good chance to learn the new offense by opening day.

Would Burress be a fit in the AFC East?

Before we consider each team, let's project the kind of receiver Burress will be.

His 34th birthday is in August. He hasn't caught an NFL pass since November 2008. Even before he went to prison after accidentally shooting himself at a Manhattan nightclub, his average yards per catch diminished four straight years.

Still, he's 6-foot-5 and always a threat to sky over defensive backs.

"When you look at him on the field, the guy is tall," ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck said Monday. "He's got long arms. One of the things the Giants loved to do is they'd get on [the opponent's] 45 and take a shot. With the way the rules are set up in the National Football League, it's absolutely perfect for a guy like Plaxico Burress, whose got the long arms, got the reach, who understands how to use his body.

Plaxico Burress
Plaxico Burress will be 34 and playing for the first time since the 2008 season.
"He's not as fast as he was two years ago. He can still be effective and still can help somebody out if that team ends up trusting him."

Hasselbeck said Burress' employment prospects could be helped by Michael Vick's successful return from prison. Vick seemed to have grown from the experience. Maybe Burress did, too.

Next to Hasselbeck on the "NFL Live" set was former Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, who claimed prison might have helped Burress in another way. Pierce won a Super Bowl ring after Burress caught the decisive touchdown to deny the New England Patriots' perfect season.

"He was in jail for two years, and that's a lot of time for that body to heal up," Pierce said. "Plaxico had some ankle, some knee injuries. You sit around for two years, your body starts to heal.

"There's some teams out there ... that would love to have his services."

The AFC East could be a destination. I reached out to Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson for his thoughts on the four rosters and whether or not there would be room for a receiver like Burress.

"I really don't know what he will be able to provide," Williamson said. "He obviously will be the same size when he returns and should continue to use his big frame well, especially near the goal line. It is speculation as to what he will be like athletically, but I have to think that his big play ability and suddenness will be greatly compromised."

Buffalo Bills

Their receiving corps looks solid, but it can be upgraded. Lee Evans has been a disappointment, but defenses must account for him at all times. Steve Johnson had a breakout season with more than 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. Roscoe Parrish had the best season of his career even though a broken wrist sidelined him after just eight games. Undrafted rookie David Nelson stepped up late in the year when injuries provided an opportunity. Interest in Burress: Low.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have invested heavily in Brandon Marshall, and Burress probably offers a similar skill set at this stage. They are tall, possession receivers who don't stretch the field (anymore). The Dolphins also have their slot receiver in Davone Bess. While Burress could help the Dolphins' woeful red-zone offense, what they need is a speedster who can help Chad Henne blow the top of coverages on occasion and loosen things up for Marshall and Bess underneath. Interest in Burress: Medium.

New England Patriots

The Patriots, as Williamson noted, are in a similar situation as the Dolphins. The Patriots have Wes Welker and Deion Branch plus tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Their greatest need in the passing game is a lightning bolt to help Tom Brady keep defenses honest. Brandon Tate and Taylor Price are burners, but they are young and haven't established themselves as capable. Interest in Burress: Low.

New York Jets

The Jets seemingly present the greatest possibility for Burress in the AFC East. "That could be a fit," Williamson said. "I could see them taking the risk. And after free agency departures, Burress might be attractive. Plus, they are in win-now mode." Points well taken. The Jets might not be able to re-sign all of their free-agent receivers: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. General manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan have shown with Holmes, Edwards and Antonio Cromartie they're open to second chances. Interest in Burress: High.