To borrow from the old Bell Systems commercials, it's time for the Carolina Panthers to reach out and touch someone.
Specifically, the Panthers should be reaching out to wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
According to ESPN.com, free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress is very interested in making Carolina his new home in order to be closer to his family and play in a Cam Newton-led offense. But according to the report, the Panthers have not yet made contact with the veteran wideout.
As a Panthers fan I hope GM Marty Hurney picks up the phone and lets his fingers do the walking. Here is why.
A Red Zone Threat
In the NFL, size matters.
At 6'5" the 34-year-old Burress is still a formidable matchup for smaller corners, especially in the red zone. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, in 2011 Plaxico Burress scored five of his eight touchdowns from inside the 10 yard line (data here).
By contrast, over the last three seasons Carolina Panthers wide receivers have scored a total of four touchdowns from within the 10 yard line (data here), two by Steve Smith and two by Brandon LaFell.
In 2011 the five touchdowns scored by Plaxico Burress from within the 10 yard line were more than all Panthers receivers have scored in the last three years combined.
In goal-to-go situations size matters for wide receivers, and Burress has it in spades.
The Panthers would benefit from adding a receiving weapon when the field gets short, and Plaxico Burress is still one of the best in the game in filling this need.
Plaxico Burress is Still Productive
After missing the 2009 and 2010 seasons due to…ahem, ahem…being in prison, Plaxico Burress returned to the NFL last year with the New York Jets.
Even after a two-year layoff and playing with an inaccurate quarterback in Mark Sanchez (career 55% completion percentage), Plaxico Burress still managed to deliver 45-612-8 last year. Burress was more productive than Carolina's number two wide receiver Brandon LaFell who posted 36-613-3 last year.
With Steve Smith still dominating and the combination of Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen playing productively, adding Plaxico Burress to Cam Newton's receiving options would give most opposing defenses huge match-up problems.
Ummm…But He Went to PRISON!
Yes, Plaxico Burress served two years in prison for accidentally discharging a gun in public. And, yes, Burress has suffered from wide receiver-induced "diva syndrome" at times in his career.
But (and this is a big BUT) Carolina has Steve Smith who is firmly in control of the wide receiver corps. There are few veteran wide receivers who command as much respect among their teammates as Steve Smith. If Plaxico Burress steps out of line, Panthers fans can count on Steve Smith taking care of business with him.
Plaxico Burress has served his time and forfeited millions of dollars for breaking New York state gun laws. His debt is paid. What matters now is if he can help the Panthers win. I think he can.
The Carolina Panthers have been searching unsuccessfully for years for a legitimate number two wide receiver to take pressure off Steve Smith.
The risk of signing Plaxico Burress as the Panthers' number two receiver is worth the reward for what should be a playoff-contending Carolina team.
Marty Hurney, can you hear me now?
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: