Monday morning former Giants WR Plaxico Burress was released from prison after spending the past 20 months behind bars when a gun he had at a nightclub accidentally went off, which is a big no-no anywhere, but especially in New York City, which has a strict handgun law. With his release, speculation has begun to swirl about which teams would be interested in the now 34 year old receiver, who hasn't played since Week 11 in 2008.
His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, predictably didn't want to shut out any teams for Burress's services, saying that all teams are in play:
"We are going to be open to all 32 teams," Rosenhaus added. "Ultimately this will be Plax's decision, not mine. I am here to help him pick the best spot and get the very best contract. And that is what we will do."
This, of course, includes the Colts, since they happen to be one of the 32 NFL teams. But just how likely is it that he'll be catching passes from a different Manning once the season starts? If it were up to me, he'd certainly get serious consideration, and I think Colts GM Chris Polian will do the same.
Let's start with the current depth for the Colts at WR. On the surface, it certainly looks like the Colts are stacked at the position: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, and Blair White. However, there are some considerable injury concerns when you look at that 3rd receiver spot.
Gonzalez has only played in 3 games over the past 2 years, and even if they were freak injuries, it is unreasonable to expect him to play 16 games this season. Same goes for Collie, who received multiple concussions last season, and could be one or two plays away from having his season, or his career ended. A little extreme? Maybe, but it's a reality the Colts will have to live with, no matter how good he is (and he's very good). White is a nice player, but he's an undrafted FA who was helped by Peyton Manning throwing the ball on the money to him time and again, but to his credit he caught the ball more times than not.
Burress, however, is most like Garcon, in that he is/would be used deeper down the field than the other guys (including Wayne). In Burress's last season in NY, he caught almost half of his passes at "Middle" distances, according to Football Outsiders. In contrast, last season Wayne was only at 30% (and 43% on "Short" passes), Collie was 20% (and 59% "Short"), and White had 29% "Middle" distance passes (45% "Short"). In contrast, Garcon was at 37% for both "Short" and "Middle" distances, which is the closest match to Burress that the Colts have.
This begs the question then about whether Burress would fit in, since the Colts have an equivalent receiver already, who has stayed relatively healthy throughout his career. I think the reason why the Colts had so many "Short" passes last year was that Manning had to get rid of the ball so quickly thanks to a bad Offensive Line. With some of those issues hopefully addressed through the draft, I think it opens up the Colts offense to throw the ball more down the field, meaning that third receiver could get down the field more, which is Burress's forte. Also getting a guy like Burress out there in the 10-20 yard range will open up the underneath throws, something opposing defenses could load up on last year, especially if they looked at those percentages above.
Now, the large elephant in the room is the whole being in jail thing, something the Colts almost always have shied away from. I have a feeling that this will be the ultimate reason Burress doesn't end up in Indianapolis, but I think he might have a different situation: Burress has a mentor who is on the short list of most well-liked people in Indianapolis, former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy. Will it be the ultimate difference in bringing in Burress? Dungy doesn't quite have the influence over the current Front Office that he used to, but I'm certain they'd at least listen to his phone call.
I have a feeling he's going to end up in a smaller market, as he got in trouble in NYC at a night club, something that isn't readily available in every NFL city. Sure they all have their gentleman's clubs and bars, but they aren't nearly the scene that New York is. It'll be easier for a team to keep tabs on him in a smaller city, which again makes Indianapolis a potential locale.
At the very least, once Free Agency opens, the Colts should bring him in for a workout, to see exactly what his playing condition is. He may very well be done as a solid NFL Wide Receiver, but nobody will know until he can start working out. Giants RB Brandon Jacobs said last week that the Colts were interested at one time, which I'll take at his word for now, but doesn't really hold much water. Personally, if Burress can still play, a one or two year deal, with obvious personal conduct provisions, wouldn't be the end of the world. The Colts are looking at a 3-5 year window with Peyton Manning at top form, so "win now" should be the mantra. Every decision should be made with that in mind, and I think the draft helped show they are thinking that way.