Sunday, March 13, 2005
Rosenhaus will take over for Burress
By Len Pasquarelli
Unable to strike a deal in the first two weeks of the signing period, unrestricted free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress has turned to the man who many now regard as the NFL's preeminent dealmaker, in hopes of landing a lucrative contract.
Burress has terminated agent Michael Harrison, ESPN.com has confirmed, and will retain high-profile player representative Drew Rosenhaus to try to stoke the flames of a flagging free agency candidacy. With a burgeoning clientele, Rosenhaus represents more players, about 90, than any other NFL agent.
The switch, hardly out of character for the impulsive Burress, will further lengthen his stay in the unrestricted pool, but the wide receiver obviously hopes that it will ultimately enhance his overall marketability.
According to NFL Players Association guidelines, a player must wait five days after dismissing his agent to retain new representation. Burress has forwarded to the NFLPA the pertinent paperwork dismissing Harrison, but it is not known when the documents arrived at the union's Washington office, and when the five-day clock begins.
As recently as Saturday afternoon, Harrison told ESPN.com he was negotiating with the Minnesota Vikings on various contract options. There had been rumors for much of last week, though, that Burress was contemplating a change.
Because of the five-day technicality, it is possible that Rosenhaus might not be officially able to begin bargaining for Burress until the end of the week.
Burress, who played the first five seasons of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, is essentially back to Square One in a free agent market nearly two weeks old. But he is counting on Rosenhaus, and the influence the Miami-based agent enjoys leaguewide, to heat up the heretofore tepid interest in his services.
Even for Rosenhaus, who has not only negotiated landmark contracts but demonstrated as well a knack for overcoming long odds with some players, the task will be a challenging one. For whatever reason, teams have not warmed to Burress, who was widely perceived at the outset of free agency to be one of the top wide receivers in the veteran pool.
Some teams might view Burress' seemingly cavalier approach to representation -- it is believed that Rosenhaus will become his fifth agent since entering the NFL and third in the past year -- as a weakness of character and a sign of basic instability. At this point, however, Burress clearly feels he has to do something to improve his status.
Rosenhaus probably will attend the annual NFL meetings, with owners set to convene next Sunday in Maui, to meet face-to-face with team officials about Burress and to begin the process of trying to rehabilitate the image of the wide receiver.
Certainly the dearth of interest in Burress has been perhaps the most mystifying element of the early free agency period, with Harrison forced to initiate contact with clubs in an attempt to create a market. It appeared that Burress might sign with the New York Giants last Thursday, but the team ended negotiations -- announcing their decision to move in another direction with a terse, 20-word statement from general manager Ernie Accorsi -- after he declined a six-year, $24 million offer that included a two-tiered bonus of $8 million.
Just hours later, Burress was on a plane to Minneapolis. But he departed on Friday with no concrete contract offer.
It is believed that Burress is seeking a contract similar to the one former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad signed with the Chicago Bears two weeks ago. In that deal, Muhammad, released by the Panthers for salary cap reasons after a Pro Bowl season in 2004, signed a six-year contract that could be worth $30 million, and which includes $12 million in guarantees.
For his career, Burress has 261 receptions for 4,166 yards and 20 touchdowns. His best season was in '01, when Burress had 66 catches for 1,008 yards and six scores.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .