Plaxico Burress was released from his two-year prison sentence on June 6 and quickly became one of the more talked-about NFL free agents. With the lockout seemingly nearing a conclusion, many pundits will speculate where Burress will sign. More astute analysts, though, will question why any team would make any serious commitment to the soon-to-be 34-year-old wide receiver/ex-convict.
The former-Giants and Steelers receiver will begin his return to the league at age 34. Most of Burress' contemporaries at his position saw a sharp decline in productivity at or before their age-34 seasons.
Randy Moss spent last season (his age-33 season), being shuffled between three teams, catching only 28 balls. Chad Ochocinco (age 32) was under 1,000 yards and had only four TDs.Steve Smith (age 31) was under 600 yards receiving and had only 46 receptions and two TDs. Chris Chambers (age 31) had only 22 catches. Torry Holt (age 35), retired in 2010 after getting hurt before the start of last season.
These comparisons do not suggest Burress will be productive in 2011.
Furthermore, anyone looking to use Michael Vick as a comparable because of the similar hiatuses from football due to prison terms is missing the differences in age and position between Vick and Burress. Michael Vick was released at age 29, five years younger than Burress. Further, Vick plays quarterback, meaning that an NFL team (in Vick's case the Philadelphia Eagles) could afford to have him be a backup and not play while getting back into football shape. In contrast, NFL teams don't have the luxury of giving a similar role to a wide receiver.
Finally, any team who signs Plaxico Burress must be aware that he is always one transgression away from a lengthy suspension as a repeat offender under the NFL's player conduct policy. Burress has had off-field issues besides the weapons charge for which he served two years and this is the profile of likely future offenders (e.g. Adam Jones, Chris Henry, Ben Roethlisberger, et al).
With all of the above in mind, one would wonder why any team would allot a roster spot for Plaxico Burress. Committing any guarantee of time or money to Burress would be a huge risk for any team to undertake given the great likelihood that Burress will be unproductive in 2011 and beyond.