According to an astounding number of recent reports, the Philadelphia Eagles may be the current front-runner in the pending Plaxico Burress auction, if and when the lockout is lifted and the 6’5″ former Giant is cleared to sign with an NFL club. I honestly cannot figure out who started this rumor, or how it “grew legs” throughout the web and spread to such usually dependable outlets as ESPN and Sports Illustrated, but I’d like to clear it up right here, right now: Plaxico Burress will never be a Philadelphia Eagle.
From what I’ve read, it seems most reporters and analysts who assume the Eagles will target Burress aggressively in the early days of free agency are basing their presumptions on one of two criteria:
1) The Eagles were one of the only teams willing to take a chance on Michael Vick when he came out of prison, and it obviously paid dividends for them in the long run. Thus, the Eagles must be the new Bengals – a team that completely ignores its players’ personal conduct and only concerns itself with on-the-field production. Murderers, rapists, thieves, drug dealers…who cares! We just want to win a Superbowl. Or…
2) A “source close to Andy Reid” has informed numerous reporters that the coach has “always been impressed” with the receiver and “is looking for a player with his physical stature and natural skill set.” In other words, Reid remembers getting torched by Burress in a number of Eagles-Giants games, and would like to have a 6’5″ receiver on his team.
Both of these reasons, of course, are totally bogus. For starters, Michael Vick was the exception, not the rule. Andy Reid and the Eagles front office does not have a history of drafting or trading for players with questionable legal histories. Sure, sometimes they will take guys with “character concerns” – like Desean Jackson and his “attitude” or Jason Peters and his disgruntled final year with the Bills – but they tend to avoid people who have arrest records or seem liable to miss games in the future for violations of the league conduct code. Notice there was no move up in this year’s draft for Jimmy Smith, the top-tier corner with a spotty background, and no interest two seasons ago in a ridiculously cheap PacMan Jones even while Reid and his staff were scrambling to find an answer at kick returner. Signing Vick when he got out of prison was not a reflection of Andy’s attitude toward ex-cons. It was a reflection of Michael Vick’s promise, pure and simple. Plax doesn’t have anywhere near that sort of upside, and if you need proof just look at his game log from 2008.
Secondly, and most importantly, we don’t need another receiver. We’re good. Sure, every team and head coach in the NFL is always looking for opportunities to upgrade every position on their roster. But Burress isn’t an upgrade. Yes, he’s bigger than DJax, Maclin and Avant. Yes, he made our defense look silly back in 2007. But right now, in 2011, Burress has nothing – nada – on our receiving corps.
If you remember, Vick was not Vick throughout his first year back in the league. We all remember those awkward “wildcat” plays when Vick would come in for McNabb, run for two yards, get tackled, and trot back off the field. It took him a full season of study, practice and conditioning to get back to game shape. To become who he was, to become better, to become who he is today.
And Vick hadn’t been shot in the leg. Burress will probably take at least a season and a half to reach full speed again, and in truth he’ll probably never get there at all. He’s 33, he was injury-ridden even before he plugged himself, and he’s nowhere near as remorseful or determined to change as Vick was when he got out of prison.
The idea of a 2006 or 2007 Plax storming the field this September and running roughshot over defenses is ludicrous, and as far as I can tell that would be the only reason the Eagles would bother spending any money on him at all. If we wanted to take on a 2- or 3-year project player and mold him into a successful, big-time receiver, we’d do it with someone a lot younger, a lot cheaper, and a lot less troublesome.
And his size? Please. We already have a big receiver. His name is Riley Cooper and he’s currently listed at number 4 on our depth chart. Why? Because being 6’3″ or 6’5″ doesn’t guarantee success in the NFL. You also need to be quick, smart, diligent, prepared, durable and focused. That’s why the smallest guy on our team is also the best receiver we have, and arguably one of the best in the league. That’s why Jeremy Maclin caught more touchdowns than Andre Johnson last year. And that’s why Plaxico Burress will never, ever, suit up in Eagle green. Andy Reid is smarter than that; he knows we’re going to have a small window for free agent signings this year and an even smaller window to coach up whoever we decide to bring in. He’s worried about defense, he’s worried about our O-line, he’s worried about kicker. Hell, he’s probably more worried about the cheerleading situation right now than he is about wide receiver. When/if September rolls around, our WR depth chart look exactly the same as it did last year. And I for one am glad.