Commentary

Jets catch lightning in a bottle

Plaxico Burress agreement trumps Giants and sends ripples through the NFL

Updated: August 1, 2011, 10:02 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

Two days after getting Nnamdi'd by the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Jets resorted to the same tactics with their pursuit of Plaxico Burress -- a swift and stealthy attack that blew away the competition, including the Eagles. Their one-year agreement with Burress, finalized Sunday morning, sent ripples (no, waves) in many directions.

It means Braylon Edwards' days as a Jet are over.

It means the Randy Moss speculation can be put to rest.

It means the Jets have a reality show at receiver, with Burress and Santonio Holmes -- a couple of Pittsburgh Steelers alums with a history of off-the-field issues.

It means Jets owner Woody Johnson can take satisfaction in knowing he stole one from the New York Giants, who also made a play for Burress. The Jets are obsessed with their crosstown rival, and now they have the Giants' former Super Bowl hero in -- brace yourself, Big Blue fans -- kelly green.

For a moment, let's forget about the peripheral issues. In football terms, was this a good move for the Jets?

No one can say for sure. Who can say anything definitive about a guy coming out of the slammer? Is he going to be Michael Vick or Tank Johnson?

What we can say is this is a convenient move, a piece that fits neatly into the puzzle.

Burress, who hasn't played in two years because of a 20-month prison term on a weapons-possession rap, is a downgrade from Edwards. Anybody who argues with that doesn't know football. Burress is 34 years old and "there is so much unknown," as an opposing personnel director said Sunday morning. "There's the layoff, the age. What are you getting? It's a leap of faith."

True, but by filling the position on the cheap (some might argue $3 million isn't cheap in this situation), the Jets have allowed themselves to address other areas.

Sources say they're close to re-signing cornerback Antonio Cromartie -- a consolation prize after losing out on Nnamdi Asomugha -- and they may look to add a receiving tight end to pair with Dustin Keller. They visited with former Baltimore Raven Todd Heap on Sunday, but he signed with the Arizona Cardinals. How about Kevin Boss of the Giants?

"They danced too long with Asomugha, but it may be a blessing in disguise if they can fill those other areas," said former Washington Redskins GM Vinny Cerrato, an NFL analyst for ESPN New York 1050.

At receiver, the Jets had concerns about Edwards, who actually played well last season. Some in the organization felt he was a diva, and his legal troubles sealed the deal, not to mention his asking price. Holmes was their No. 1 choice all along, a decision they made as far back as last December.

So they had to find a new No. 2. Moss? The Jets did show some interest, but that would've been a disaster. Yeah, he would've brought a home run dimension to the passing game, but he also would've brought a lousy, couldn't-care-less attitude.

Burress was hardly a model teammate before he accidentally shot himself in November 2008, but he's motivated (presumably) and will fit nicely into Rex Ryan World -- the antithesis of Tom Coughlin's by-the-book society.

The Jets' intrigue with Burress actually began in the spring of 2009, when Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum visited him at his South Florida home. At the time, Burress was facing the likelihood of prison time.

In recent days, they also flirted with Green Bay Packers free agent James Jones, 27, but he would've cost more than Burress. Recognizing that, the Jets intensified their Plaxico pursuit over the last two days.

Burress was on a layover in Los Angeles, on his way to meet with the San Francisco 49ers, when he heard from the Jets, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported. The Jets asked what it would take to make a deal; Burress gave the number.

Done deal. Burress stays in New York, where he played four seasons and where he served two years in prison. The contract is one year, $3.017 million, fully guaranteed. They threw in $17,000 because of his jersey number -- 17. How cute.

The Jets will bring him along slowly, giving Burress a chance to adjust physically and mentally. This is going to be a whirlwind for him, because you know there will be a media circus. If he can get back to being the Plax of '08 -- if and when -- he will be a red zone weapon for the Jets.

At 6-foot-5, Burress is as tall as any starting receiver in the NFL. You know Mark Sanchez is smiling. A year ago, his completion percentage inside the 20 was 49.3, 28th in the league. The entire offense was a mess in the red zone, a big reason why they hired former Indianapolis Colts coordinator Tom Moore as a consultant.

Cerrato said Burress will be a big help to Sanchez, who struggles with accuracy and needs a big receiver to haul in off-target passes, but he wondered how long it will take for Burress to be functional.

"It took Michael Vick a whole year, and he's a lot younger than Burress," Cerrato said.

Obviously, the Jets believe Burress can be ready in relatively short order. There's no time to waste. Haven't you heard? They have to win a Super Bowl -- like, now. Ryan guaranteed it.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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