New York Jets: Will Getting Older Pay Off?

Danny PaskasSenior Analyst IAugust 9, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - AUGUST 07:  Plaxico Burress #17 of the New York Jets works out at NY Jets Practice Facility on August 7, 2011 in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t teams usually get younger? Don’t teams cut or decide not to re-sign the older player when a very serviceable younger player is available? This traditional way of thinking is why the moves the New York Jets have made in the off-season remain baffling to me.

While re-signing Santonio Holmes may prove to be one the NFL’s best off-season transactions, the Plaxico Burress signing may prove to be one of the worst. It’s not a financial mistake, because the Jets are getting him pretty cheap. A $3.17 million one -year deal is really nothing in the grand scheme of things—even if it’s fully guaranteed. The big mistake is the butterfly effect that comes with making a 33-year-old, straight-out-of-prison, oft-injured receiver who has not seen the field in two seasons, your No. 2 option.

Signing Burress meant not re-signing a very productive Braylon Edwards. All Edwards did last season was haul in 53 receptions for 904 yards while scoring seven touchdowns. Edwards is also only 28 and clearly wanted to be a Jet.

His initial asking price may have been too high, though, which was probably a big reason the Jets struck quickly and signed the believed-to-be cheaper Burress. However, after checking out the market for his value, Edwards realized the money he was expecting was simply not there. He wound up signing just a one year deal for $3.5 million with only one million of it guaranteed.

I guess Rex Ryan wanted the big name splash, especially after missing out on Nnamdi Asomughua to the Philadelphia Eagles. And I can see getting enamored with Burress while watching his game tape showing his ability to take over games and his Superbowl heroics. The thing is, though, these tapes are historic, years old and from a league where production drop off for players over 30 happens sometimes at warp speed.

With word coming out of Jets camp that Burress tweaked/rolled his ankle and is unable to run routes or participate fully in practice, I am already worried. Sure, it may be just a very minor setback and keeping him out is just precautionary, but it’s news that no Jets fan wanted to hear. The fact is, Burress has a history with ankle injuries and this has to throw up some sort of red flag.

While you will hear from most of the talking heads that you can’t teach size, and Burress standing at 6’5" definitely brings a lot to the field, I also believe you can’t teach health. Some players are just injury-prone, and when these injury-prone players get older, these injuries linger even more. What good can all of Burress’ size bring if he’s unable to even get into the game?

The philosophy of signing Burress was just flawed. Bringing Burress onto a team poised to make another Superbowl run would have probably been great if the plan was to use him as a luxury. The flaw was making him a necessity, which he now is.

Compounding the Burress mistake was getting even older by releasing 29-year-old receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who has spent his eight-year career with the Jets, and signing 37-year-old Derrick Mason.

At first, the release of Cotchery came as a surprise, but according to a New York Post report, he asked for his release back in February and has recently been hinting that a change of scenery might be a good thing.

Upon further glance, the Jets were pushing him away for years. Sure they wanted Cotchery, but they wanted him on their terms as a third receiver. The Jets showed him this by bringing in Edwards, Holmes, Burress and now old-man Mason.

Was there a specific reason for not entrusting Cotchery with a starting receiver role? When the Jets needed him to start, all he did was produce. From 2006-09 he had 82, 82, 71 and 57 receptions respectively. He did fall off a little the last two seasons because he was playing with a herniated disc in his back.

The fact is that Cotchery just wasn’t, and will never be, that explosive, flashy receiver. He’s a great locker room guy, a sure-handed possession receiver who knows the system. You know who he reminds me of? New Jet Derrick Mason. Only Cotchery is eight years younger, which makes this trade off just seem puzzling.

It was not like Cotchery was expensive or demanding a new deal. He was making $1.8 million this season, with a $3.7 million cap hit. The locker room presence, along with the knowledge of the system he brought, made his price tag look affordable, but the Jets did not feel that way.

Now the Jets have put their trust in a 33-year-old huge question mark of a receiver, a 37-year-old who is unfamiliar with the system, a rookie and Santonio Holmes. Will this new group be more effective than Braylon Edwards, Holmes and Cotchery? It remains to be seen, but the Jets just got old real quick—right in the middle of what is supposed to be another Superbowl run.