In a free agent signing period where the market has been soft for players like Braylon Edwards, James Jones, and Malcolm Floyd, it’s surprising how many teams were linked to Plaxico Burress. Plax is less than a year younger than Randy Moss, has similar character concerns, and put together an even less impressive 2010 stat line. We don’t have many PFF data points on Burress, but what little we do have confirms the oddness of this signing.
Let’s start with the positive. In the three years before his ill-fated 2008 season, Plaxico was a true star receiver. From 2005-2007, he averaged 1075 yards and just a shade under 10 TDs. His career yards per catch average is a sterling 15.5. If you were to sign that Plaxico, you would be getting an elite field-stretcher and red zone threat.
Unfortunately for the Jets, that isn’t who they signed. From 2004-2008, Burress saw his yards per catch drop every single season. It’s easy to forget that things were souring with the Giants even before the incident. Plaxico’s personality wasn’t a good fit with Tom Coughlin, but the flare-ups were also related to performance. Seven of his ten PFF grades were negative in 2008, including the final six in a row. His run blocking was a weakness, but his PFF pass grades really stand out. From Week 3 to Week 10, Plax put up a -7.8. He dropped 6 passes in 65 targets and had a 54% catch rate.
It’s not impossible for Plaxico to embark on a magical comeback season. Somewhat surprisingly, NFL history shows 35 instances of a 34-year old garnering 1,000 or more receiving yards. If Burress is to manage it, he’ll have to do it as the secondary target on a run-heavy team. Braylon Edwards caught 53 balls a season ago and didn’t have to fight Holmes for looks the first quarter of the season. If you draft Burress expecting more than 40 catches for 520 yards and 5 TDs, you’re probably overpaying.