Burress, an unrestricted free agent who played for the New York Jets in 2011, was a guest on The Mac Attack show on Charlotte's WFNZ The Fan this Tuesday, and he was emphatic about his desire to team up with Cam Newton and Steve Smith in Carolina this season.
When asked if the Panthers are his top choice to play in 2012, Burress responded, "No doubt about it." Via CBS Charlotte:
I just want to put myself in a position to go out and have success and to make the guys around me better and obviously play with a quarterback who can really play the position. It’s just about me picking my spots and seeing where I’m a good fit. You just look at a situation like Carolina. You can’t come across a better situation than that.
The former New York Giants star receiver—and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's poster child for gun control in the five boroughs—had high praise for Newton, whom he called one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL.
Burress also has close ties to the area (he is from Virginia Beach and has relatives in Charlotte and nearby Columbia, SC) and would welcome the opportunity to play in front of family and friends at Bank of America Stadium, but the soon-to-be 35-year-old Burress said he has not had any direct contact with the Panthers.
However, he added, he has been in touch with other NFC South teams, and it would be a shame to see a legitimate red-zone threat—and likely No. 2 wide receiver if he signs with Carolina—line up across from Chris Gamble at home and on the road as a divisional rival.
Here are five reasons Panthers general manager Marty Hurney needs to pick up the phone and call Burress' agent to set up a workout with the rangy wide receiver today.
No. 1: Red-Zone Offense
In his last full season before going to jail for accidentally discharging a firearm and shooting himself in a Manhattan nightclub, Burress had a career-high 12 touchdown receptions and played an integral role in the New York Giants' Super Bowl run.
In his first season back from prison, Burress caught eight more touchdown receptions from middling New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
At 6'5" and 232 pounds, Burress was once among the NFL's best red-zone receivers, and his jump-ball ability in the end zone outmatches anyone currently on the Panthers roster, including Steve Smith.
Already lethal with Smith, tight end Greg Olsen and a loaded backfield, the Panthers would be unstoppable inside the 20-yard line if they add Burress to the mix.
No. 2: Experience
Plaxico Burress has four 1,000-yard seasons, 63 touchdown receptions and a pair of Super Bowl rings in his 10-year career.
That's one fewer 1,000-yard season, 11 more scoring catches and two more world championships than Steve Smith—who Burress said has long been one of his favorite receivers—had in his first 10 years in the NFL.
The Panthers passed on drafting a big-bodied receiver like Chicago Bears rookie Alshon Jeffery to claim the mantle of Newton's No. 2 receiver, perhaps because they suspected there would be an opportunity to pick up a veteran wideout to help mentor and mold Brandon LaFell for a season or two.
Like Jeremy Shockey in 2011, Burress could prove to be a boon to the Carolina locker room and a huge contributor on the field, despite his sometimes-troubled past.
No. 3: Double Trouble Times Two
The Carolina Panthers already have one of the NFL's most lethal tailback tandems in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, appropriately nicknamed "Double Trouble" after they each rushed for over 1,000 yards in the 2009 NFL season.
However, the Panthers are still searching for a star-quality No. 2 receiver to play opposite Steve Smith.
LaFell and David Gettis are potential stars in the making, but Burress is a proven top-notch receiver who gives Newton and the Panthers offense another legitimate weapon right away.
Burress gives Carolina much-needed size that it does not have at the wide receiver position, and he and Smith would give the Panthers another lethal duo on offense.
No. 4: No Commitment
No long-term commitment by the Panthers, that is.
Burress is an unrestricted free agent who will be 35 years old about two weeks into training camp, and he has not yet signed with a team this offseason.
In other words, he's available and the Panthers can sign him on their terms.
Marty Hurney is not normally one to build a football team through free agency, but the Panthers have enough salary cap space to sign Burress to a no-strings, one-year deal that will improve the team in the short term without jeopardizing their long-term plans.
And if the Plaxico experiment does not pan out, they still have LaFell and Gettis to fall back on.
No. 5: Chud
Panthers offensive coordinator Rob "Chud" Chudzinski has one of the most creative offensive minds in the NFL, so who would not want to see what he can do with an aging, former superstar hungry to prove that he still has what it takes to be a star in the NFL?
He did it with Smitty in 2011, so why not Plax in 2012?
If anyone can find a way to make Plaxico Burress a dominant player and a household name again, it's Chud.
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