NFL Free Agency: Analyzing the Plaxico Burress to St. Louis Rams Speculation
Now that former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress has been released from prison, rumors of where he'll resume his football career are swirling. While many teams have their own reasons for taking a chance on the 6-5, 232 pound pass-catcher, the one team many experts have linked to Burress is the St. Louis Rams.
There is so much to say about the possibility of Burress becoming a Ram. Why would he be linked to them? Where would he fit in? How could he potentially positively or negatively impact the young, rising Rams? These are a few of the many questions that will be answered here.
Catching Up on Plaxico
Considering the guy has been out of football for two years, I don't want to jump into a discussion about the receiver before refreshing your memory on what Burress brings to the table and what he has accomplished so far.
Chances are you know all about the story behind Plaxico Burress going to prison, but just in case let's sum it up. Burress was in LQ, a New York City nightclub on Nov. 28, 2008 when he accidentally pulled the trigger of his Glock pistol whilst reaching for it as it slid down his leg. While the bullet struck him in the right thigh, it was not life-threatening and didn't cause much damage.
On Aug. 3, 2009, Burress was charged with two counts of criminal possession and one count of reckless endangerment. He was sentenced to prison and there he stayed until June 6, 2011.
At 6-5, 232 lbs, Burress is a monstrous receiver and is an instant matchup problem for most defenses. He doesn't possess ideal speed for an NFL pass-catcher, but he has adequate vision and was one of the better possession receivers in the league before being locked up. His route-running skills aren't elite, but still effective and his dependable hands allows him to make difficult catches.
Stats w/ New York Giants
2008 (10 games)—35 receptions, 454 yards, 4 touchdowns
2007—70 receptions, 1,025 yards, 12 touchdowns
2006 (15 games)—63 receptions, 988 yards, 10 touchdowns
2005—76 receptions, 1,214 yards, 7 touchdowns
Stats w/ Pittsburgh Steelers
2004 (11 games)—35 receptions, 698 yards, 5 touchdowns
2003—60 receptions, 680 yards, 4 touchdowns
2002—78 receptions, 1,325 yards, 7 touchdowns
2001—66 receptions, 1,008 yards, 6 touchdowns
2000—22 receptions, 273 yards
Why Is He Being Linked to the Rams?
In every aspect of life you ever experience, you'll find that the relative ease and success directly correlates to the comfortability level one has with the task at hand. With Plaxico Burress and the Rams, there will be comfortability all around.
The team is coached by Steve Spagnuolo, the man who guided the Giants' defense while Burress was dominating for New York on offense. The Rams' starting DT Fred Robbins is a former teammate of Burress and he, according to multiple sources, "really wants" Burress in Saint Louis. If he were to go to Saint Louis, he wouldn't be walking into a locker room full of strangers, but rather, a large amount of acquaintances.
Lack of Productive Receivers
The Rams aren't completely hopeless at the receiver position, but some insurance would help. After all, there is no guarantee that receivers Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton will be completely healthy following knee injuries, and outside of those two, the only other proven receiver on the roster is Danny Amendola.
If the Rams expect to compete with Josh McDaniels' spread offense in 2011, they are going to need some firepower.
Where Would He Fit In?
For argument's sake, let's say the Rams head into 2011 completely healthy. Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton's knee problems are things of the past, and Danario Alexander finally isn't made of glass. If this happens, you're looking at a depth chart like this:
WR: Mary Clayton, Donnie Avery, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas
SLOT: Danny Amendola, Austin Pettis, Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas
Now let's say the Rams do sign Burress. Obviously, the giant pass-catcher would be featured on the outside. What does this mean for the depth chart? Well, one of two things could happen:
1. Avery or Clayton's playing time takes a hit.
2. Avery moves down to slot receiver, where his skills are better suited anyways.
The most likely scenario would be the latter. Avery's skill set is better suited for a slot type role, and Clayton and Avery both are too valuable to take snaps away from. So on paper, Burress fits in rather well.
What Kind of Production Can We Expect from Burress?
Josh McDaniels' spread offense really allows for players to succeed, especially the more talented specimens such as Burress. However, you must remember that this man hasn''t played a single snap in the NFL in two seasons. Interestingly enough, Eagles' QB Mike Vick also sat out two seasons before returning to the NFL. Yes, he is now back on top of the football world and is widely considered one of the better players in all of football all over again. We know.
Do you remember his first season back though? Vick struggled mightily. Every now and then, you'd see small flashes of old Mike Vick, but overall he was rusty in every facet of his game. Sure, some of that could stem from his lack of playing time, but even when he would receive an extended look, he just seemed a step slower.
What can we draw from this in our analysis of Burress? Not much, but it does prove that prison isn't a magical land that keeps football players game-ready over long periods of time. I don't doubt Plaxico Burress will be in shape come the regular season, but it'd be unfair to believe he could immediately pick up where he left off with the same football skills. His hands will take awhile to come around, his route-running skills are going to need some cobwebs shaken off, and there should be a good portion of time before the game slows back down for him.
However, with Josh McDaniels' spread offense, Burress' size and the expected improvement of QB Sam Bradford, there are still plenty of reasons to believe Burress will be somewhat successful in 2011.
50 receptions, 600 yards, 5 touchdowns
What Are the Pros of Bringing in Burress?
Instant Upgrade to Receiver Position
Any time you replace a Laurent Robinson with a Plaxico Burress, it's a pretty significant upgrade. And while there is no guarantee that Burress will be able to recapture his form, his upside is far better than most on the Rams' WR depth chart.
Ticket/Jersey Sales (For the Business Man)
Burress will bring added publicity and with added publicity comes added interest. If you sign a character like Burress, you will put more butts in the seats. Meanwhile, jersey sales would increase as well. Don't expect him to surpass Steven Jackson or Sam Bradford as the most popular jersey since he won't be around very long, but signing him could cause a very positive impact in revenue sales.
Like I discussed earlier, Burress would come into Saint Louis with plenty of familiarity with the team. More importantly, the team would already have plenty of experience with him. Everyone player is different, and knowing how to handle certain players on and off the field is a big deal. Don't mistake a Burress signing as something similar to, say, a Moss signing. The Rams had no clue what they would've been getting themselves into with Moss. While Burress has been a ghost to the world for two seasons, the Rams carry far more familiarity.
What Are the Cons of Signing Burress?
Presence in Locker Room
When Burress was in New York, there were plenty of reports supporting the idea that he isn't the greatest of personalities. A bad attitude waiting to happen, the Rams would be running the risk of letting him get to the young, impressionable locker room they have at the moment. If Burress were to start getting out of hand for some reason, do the Rams have a veteran who would be willing to step up and get in the face of the receiver? Not really. That would probably rely on head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Then again, they say prison changes a man. Perhaps he is now a walking box of kittens and rainbows. Only time will tell.
Doesn't Fit the Youth Movement
The Rams are in the midst of a very successful youth movement. While they did see a tremendous improvement in 2010, they still have a long ways to go before being considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders. When you are in this situation, it isn't incredibly ideal to spend your money on aging veterans for a year or two unless they really carry something special with them. Some veterans provide value in a mentoring role, such as how a team will sign an aging quarterback shortly after drafting a young quarterback.
His Game Could be Gone
Take this factor with a grain of salt, but Burress may be done in terms of being a legitimate impact receiver. Once again, Mike Vick's success story doesn't speak for everyone. Being out of a sport for two years can have a very negative effect, especially when the athlete is on the wrong side of 30. If the contract is right and Burress impresses in workouts, just cast this factor aside. I really do believe Burress will be successful when he returns.
What Do You Think?
Let's get down to brass tacks here.
Would you want to see Plaxico Burress in St. Louis? Why or why not? Leave a comment below and let us know how you feel.