As many of you know, there have been reports surfacing for the past few weeks about Plaxico Burress coming to the Philadelphia Eagles. At first it was mostly idle speculation centered around supposed interest from Plaxico’s side. But now there is confirmation of interest on the Eagles’ side as well.
Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported today that he has “spoke to several team sources and there’s certainly interest there”. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was also quoted with the following response to a question about considering Burress and comparing it to signing Michael Vick (courtesy of Philly.com):
“We evaluate case by case. It involved a lot of research into Michael – what kind of teammate he was. What his motivations were. How much he cared for the game,” Lurie said. “We’ve shown we’ll take chances if it’s warranted.
It would be similar,” Lurie said. “Any player, if there’s issues off the field, we have to ascertain . . . are they going to represent the Eagles and the community that we serve? Are they going to be part of events like this? Michael has shown this. If a player is not willing to be part of the culture we have, then I don’t think it’s a good fit.”
So, would Plaxico Burress meet that criteria?
I’ve written previously about how I didn’t think there was any chance, or any reason for that matter, that the Eagles would sign Burress. For the record, I still don’t think they actually will. But for now I thought I’d entertain the notion of having this touchdown-catching, leg-shooting player as a member of the Eagles.
The potential benefits are obvious: Another weapon, huge target, excellent red zone receiver. What could it hurt in having another weapon on offense? Michael Vick and Jason Avant have already stated they would welcome him to the team.
Avant’s acceptance is notable since he could stand to see his playing time and receptions dwindle at the expense of adding Burress. In addition to being an added weapon, Burress could also serve as a good example on how to play like a big receiver from which Riley Cooper could learn. Cooper could potentially learn how to use his size to his advantage and become the Eagles’ “big receiver” of the future.
If the Eagles signed Plax, who would be the odd man out? Initially I thought it would be Chad Hall who is currently the 5th wide receiver on a team that usually only keeps five on the roster. I was a little concerned with that only because Hall is versatile in that he can return kicks and/or punts (he was also used as a running back in certain packages).
However, the Eagles have a few options there. They absolutely need to have players who can return kicks on the roster. Do you remember the last time the Eagles went into the season without a valid return man?
That was in the 2007 season opener against the Packers where they lost the game due to a few muffed punts that led directly to Packer scores. Shortly thereafter the Eagles brought back the vaunted Reno Mahe since he could actually field punts.
If they didn’t want to lose Hall, they could simply keep six wide receivers (they’ve done that before) and go short at another position or they could list Hall as a running back and a player like Eldra Buckley would be the odd man out.
The Eagles also have the forgotten player Jorrick Calvin on the roster. He is a cornerback that they acquired in a trade last August with the Cardinals. Calvin is a punt and kick returner and was doing a decent job before he was placed on injured reserve in December. He returned 12 punts for 125 yards (10.4 YPR) and 32 kicks for 692 yards (21.6 YPR). He would adequately replace Hall in this regard.
If Eagles fans can embrace Michael Vick, they certainly should have no problem doing the same for Burress. What Burress did was against the law but hardly “criminal”. Plus, we can sit here an analyze whether or not he would be a good fit in Philly and the logic behind whether or not he is needed until we’re blue in the face.
But the truth of the matter is, it’s not our money to spend on signing him so what should we care? His contract will likely be minimal and incentive laden. As long as signing him doesn’t bring any negative consequences to the the team, we could all just sit back and enjoy the show.
If it was a certainty that adding Burress would not disrupt the locker-room chemistry, be fine with whatever contract he signed, not cause a special teams shortage, and act like a “model citizen”, I wouldn’t have a problem with him signing in Philadelphia. But of course those are all big “ifs”.
And there really is no way of knowing the answer to those questions no matter what Burress says as he tries to sell his services to prospective suitors. The question the Eagles have to ask themselves is if he’s worth the risk.
Is he worth a “shot”?