Eisenberg: Ravens Should Say No To Plaxico


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I guess I get it. Burress spent four years with the Giants, made a Super Bowl-winning catch for them and shot himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub; it's a classic rise-and-fall New York story, and those get the big shout.

Of course, since there really wasn't much to talk about Monday, a lot of the conversation centered on where Burress might land now that he is out of prison after 20 months.


The Ravens have been mentioned as a possible fit, but they should say no.

If Burress had become available, say, a year ago, he would have made more sense. The Ravens went with veteran receivers to amp up their passing game, trading for Anquan Boldin, re-signing Derrick Mason and picking up Donte Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The 6-foot-5 Burress might have helped more than the latter two, giving quarterback Joe Flacco a huge red-zone target.

But Burress was, ahem, certainly not available a year ago, and he makes a whole lot less sense for the Ravens now.

It's not because of character concerns, understand. Yes, Burress was foolish enough to carry a weapon into a club and shoot himself, but he has surely learned a humbling lesson, and more importantly, he's on probation for two years, so he's probably not looking for trouble.

The big problem is he is another year older now, soon to turn 34. Sadly for him, he likely sat out the latter stages of what could have been his prime. He is on the way down, a career-point the Ravens experienced in 2010 with Houshmandzadeh, 33, and Stallworth, 30. Why go back down that road with someone even older who hasn't caught a pass in 32 months?

When you look closely at his record, it's not clear how much Burress is going to be able to help any team, let alone the Ravens. His average yards-per-catch dropped in every season between 2004 and 2008, from a high of 19.9 to a low of 13.0. At the end of his tenure with the Giants, he was averaging less than four catches per game and could no longer stretch fields.

He was never a superior route runner and never that fast, but in his prime, he was a huge target with soft hands and a knack for making big plays, as the Patriots learned in the Super Bowl. By the end in New York, though, he was a big-play guy struggling to make big plays.

Oh, sure, he might come back with renewed determination and play better, but at this point, the Ravens don't need what he would offer as a supplement to Boldin and Mason, their penciled-in 2011 starters. They're precise route-runners, fierce "underneath" guys who go get the ball, but they – and every Baltimore receiver, for that matter – struggled to separate themselves from coverage at times in 2010 because the team lacked a deep threat to stretch out that coverage.

That's precisely why the Ravens selected Torrey Smith in the second round of the draft in April – to add speed to their pass-catch corps.

"We realize that the vertical speed that Torrey brings to us will be a big asset," Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said during a conference call with season ticket holders in May.

At another point in that call, when asked what was needed to catch and pass the Pittsburgh Steelers, Newsome said the Ravens needed to make more big plays and "I think getting Torrey into the mix will allow us to get that quick strike."

The Ravens want more of a blend of skills from their wideouts this year, a mix of youth and experience, precision and speed. Smith and fellow rookie Tandon Doss, a fourth-round pick whom Flacco seems to like, could be a key part of their blueprint.

They've already got their name older guys. They don't need another.

John Eisenberg *covers the Ravens for Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. He worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.*

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