Free-agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress may be the most accomplished route runner on the market, but there has been little interest from teams in securing his duties for the upcoming 2012 season.
On Wednesday, Burress went on WFNZ in Charlotte and told the listening audience that he wanted to play for Carolina; in fact, it was his preferred landing spot.
“No doubt about it,” said Burress. “My brother lives right there in Charlotte, my cousin lives there in Charlotte and all my family is there in Columbia, South Carolina. It would just be a great situation all the way around and being close to everybody.
Not just that but playing with Cam (Newton) who I think is one of the top five quarterbacks in all of football and as long as I can remember Steve Smith has been one of my favorites. I just think it’s a great situation.”
And it’s not a secret that Carolina wouldn’t mind the help.
The team seems to want to build off Newton’s fine rookie season where the passer threw for more than 4,000 yards and torched defenses with his arm and his legs. And the Panthers are stockpiling receivers to find an answer.
Smith is heading into his 12th year in the league and is coming off of a 1,394-yard, 79-catch performance, his best season since 2008. He and Newton are in sync, but it could be even better in Carolina if there was another receiver besides Smith to draw the attention of opposing defenses.
Third-year receivers David Gettis and Brandon LaFell are front-runners to land at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, but there are statistical advantages for Carolina to look at Burress.
Newton threw 13 touchdown passes from inside the red zone last year. But eight of those were to the tight end or running back positions. And of the five touchdown catches that went to wide receivers, Smith caught two of them.
That means receivers not named Smith on the Panthers in 2011 accounted for the just three red-zone touchdown receptions. Burress caught seven touchdown passes inside the red zone last year with the Jets.
But Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer stated that the Panthers aren’t going to be calling on Burress.
But a team official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday the Panthers are not interested in signing Burress, who returned to the NFL with the New York Jets last season after serving nearly two years in prison on a weapons charge in New York.
The Panthers’ unwillingness to give Burress a shot might be linked to his weapons charge, but it’s more likely that he’s asking for too much money.
A New York Post report states that Burress is likely asking for a similar salary figure to that of what he received from the Jets last year: $3 million. And some league sources, according the Post report, believe that Burress isn’t worth that kind of money.
Burress needs to wise up and sign a veteran-minimum deal if he truly wants to play in Charlotte. He could load the contract with incentives for him and morals clauses to protect the team. That might intrigue Panthers GM Marty Hurney enough to give the 34-year-old Burress a look.
Not only does Burress have experience on his side, he has a much-needed skill set. History also tells the Panthers to make this deal work.
The last time Carolina had a winning season was 2008, it was also the team’s last playoff appearance. Those 12-4 Panthers were led by Smith’s 1,421 yards receiving, but complemented by Muhsin Muhammad’s 65 catches and 923 yards through the air.
History tells the Panthers that two top wide receivers along with the ample running back situation in Carolina leads to good things. Sprinkle in the reigning Rookie of the Year at quarterback and it would be hard not to imagine adding Burress as a huge step up.
And that should be enough for the Panthers to look past any off-the-field issues Burress has been linked to in the past.
Especially if the price is right.