The last time a high-profile ex-convict hit the free-agent market, few in the NFL thought the Philadelphia Eagles would pursue him. Aside from Terrell Owens, the Eagles typically had not taken risks on players with character issues. Eagles coach Andy Reid filled his locker room with relatively responsible men who would hold each other accountable and police themselves.
An ex-con did not fit in there, at least not until Michael Vick became available.
Now, after the successful integration of Vick into the Eagles organization, the campaigning has begun for the team to sign Plaxico Burress. Vick has said publicly that he wants Burress on the team. So has Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. From the sound of it, the Eagles are on Burress' short list, and in all likelihood, given how many times Reid had to watch Burress torch his team with the New York Giants, Reid wants Burress on the team, although he cannot say so and even if he could, he would not.
But it makes perfect sense, for both sides.
Unless Burress says or does something stupid -- not out of the realm of possibility, given that he shot himself in the leg with a concealed weapon to end up in prison in the first place -- it probably will happen.
There is a saying in labor disputes: When things get quiet, deals get made. The same often can be said for player transactions. The moment helpful sources stop being helpful, a love affair probably has been born.
I recently asked someone inside the Eagles organization who is privy to internal personnel discussions whether the team was going to pursue Burress once the league year finally starts.
"Sorry," the typically helpful source said. "Can't help you on that one."
Translation: The Eagles are going to go after Burress, and go after him hard.
It really is the perfect scenario for both parties. As Vick was in 2009, Burress undoubtedly will be rusty after serving nearly two years in prison. He will be a step slow. His timing will be off and his conditioning will not be close to where it was when he was in his prime with the Giants.
Like Vick, Burress will need time to get all of that back. He will turn 34 next month. Maybe he can recover the speed and agility he had with the Giants, maybe he can't. But he is still 6-foot-5, making him significantly taller than any receiver the Eagles have on their roster.
Maybe at first Philadelphia uses Burress for four or five plays a game.
Maybe he is a big target for Vick only in red zone packages. With Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, two potential 1,000-yard receivers, on the outside, the Eagles do not need Burress to be a No. 1 or a No. 2 option, but they could use his size. A big receiver is the only missing piece in their offensive arsenal.
Reid quietly fell in love with the idea of signing Vick in the spring of 2009, before Vick ever left prison in Leavenworth, Kan. When the Eagles signed Vick that August, there was speculation that Reid had a soft spot for Vick because two of Reid's sons had been incarcerated on drug-related offenses.
Reid conceded that could be true, but he is running a business, not a halfway house for convicted felons. He wanted Vick because of what Vick might be able to bring to the Eagles. It was a low-risk, high-reward scenario. At the time, Philadelphia had a proven veteran starting quarterback in Donovan McNabb and an heir apparent in Kevin Kolb. The Eagles did not need Vick to be anything other than a gimmick in their Wildcat formations.
What they ended up with was the highest reward -- the most elusive, dynamic player in the game last season.
Vick had the time and space to regain his abilities in a relatively low-pressure environment, and because of Philadelphia's depth at receiver, Burress would too. The Eagles have a decent option in the slot in Jason Avant. To them, Burress simply would be a luxury.
In four seasons with the Giants, Burress caught five regular-season touchdown passes against the Eagles. Philadelphia never beat New York in the regular season when Burress caught a touchdown pass.
The best example of Burress' ability came in 2006 at Lincoln Financial Field. In overtime, Eli Manning lofted a pass to Burress in the end zone. Burress easily outjumped Sheldon Brown, then one of the Eagles' reliable but undersized corners, and the Giants won the game.
Reid certainly has not forgotten that one.
He also has a team of offensive players who, while relatively young, are secure in their positions. That is why Jackson, who has been vying for a new contract since before last season, is open to having Burress on the team.
"I wish the best for him," Jackson recently told ESPN New York radio host Stephen A. Smith. "And if he was to come to Philadelphia, I think it would be a dangerous combination."
It could be. If nothing else, it would be another low-risk, potentially high-reward situation for the Eagles. They made it work once, which is why there is a high probability they will try to make it work again.
Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.