Plax not: Eagles don't need Burress for the red zone

Former Giants star Plaxico Burress is greeted by the media after his release from prison yesterday.
Former Giants star Plaxico Burress is greeted by the media after his release from prison yesterday. (Associated Press)
Posted: June 07, 2011

PLAXICO BURRESS stands 6-5 in a pair of sweatpants - and probably 6-7 when you include the old-school Phillies cap he wore yesterday upon his release from prison. That makes him a quarterback's red-zone dream, and the red hat makes him a Philadelphia dream, and, by the principles of the transitive property, or something, that makes for a red-hot rumor of Plax to the Eagles.

That is the theory.

Here is the reality:

Burress' best season in the red zone came in 2007, more than a year before he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a club in New York and ended up being convicted under the city's no-nonsense gun laws. We won't even get into the idea of how much prison might have taken out of his body, and what kind of shape Burress, now 33, could be expected to be in, and how much the lack of an offseason program and maybe a training camp might hamper his ability to step onto a football field and look like a reasonable facsimile of what we all remember.

This is only about 2007, his best red-zone performance. During a season in which he caught 70 balls, Burress had 11 receptions in the red zone. Six went for touchdowns.

Compare that with the Eagles' Jeremy Maclin in 2010. He also had a 70-catch season. He also had 11 receptions in the red zone. Seven went for touchdowns, one more than Burress in his best season.

So what are we talking about here, other than a complete vacuum of information during the NFL lockout, and a couple of rumors clearly instigated by someone with the initials "Drew Rosenhaus," and a red hat?

It makes no sense, unless Andy Reid feels as if it's time to re-enter the rehabilitation business. He already has DeSean Jackson, who uniquely stretches the field and draws defensive attention. He already has Maclin, who is more polished than Jackson and much, much, much more productive in the difficult areas of the field.

Jason Avant is a guy they like on third down, on the hash marks, and he is a significant locker-room leader for a team on which veteran leadership isn't exactly falling from the trees. Riley Cooper is a kid who intrigues them.

So where would Burress fit? Let's say it is as the third-four-fifth kind of receiver on the roster. That leads to a couple of questions. First, would he be willing to accept a contract commensurate with being the third-four-fifth receiver on the team? Would he be willing, further, to accept a contract written with some protections for the team - given that he is, you know, a convicted felon and all? And, finally, would he be willing, able or any good at playing on special teams - which is pretty much a must for any receiver who is going to be a backup/specialist kind of guy?

A quick guesstimate on the answers to those three questions are no, maybe and no.

Besides - and this really needs to be underlined - they already have a burgeoning red-zone force on their team. They already have Maclin.

To argue in Burress' favor is to fight the last war and not the current war. Back when Donovan McNabb was the Eagles' quarterback, it was fair to argue that they needed a big red-zone target. The reason was not that the offense was badly designed, or that other people weren't open, but that McNabb simply refused to throw the ball in the red zone to a little guy who was open only for a blink. McNabb didn't do blinks.

Instead, he wanted a big target, and he wanted him to be wide open enough that everyone in the stadium could see him - or, if not that, he simply wanted a big guy whose size and body positioning would shrink the risk of an interception if McNabb were willing to take a chance with a throw.

McNabb was too cautious, or too slow to decide. That is true. But McNabb also won a ton of games for the Eagles with a philosophy of throwing a minuscule number of interceptions and lowering the risk. He is a complicated conversation, as we all know. But back then, it seemed that a big red-zone specialist was what he craved, and the Eagles should have gotten him one in the post-T.O. years.

That was then, though. The quarterback is not McNabb, but Michael Vick. And the best red-zone receiver on the team is 6-foot-nothing, and that is fine. The Eagles don't need Plaxico Burress.

Love the hat, but save the money. Spend it on Nnamdi Asomugha. *

Send email to hofmanr@phillynews.com, or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich.

For recent columns go to www.philly.com/RichHofmann.

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