Jason A. Cohen. 30th January, 2009 - 3:27 pm
In the aftermath of Plaxico Burress' gun accident, the Giants' offense took a considerable hit having lost their biggest weapon, no pun intended. It is unclear what type of legal recourse Burress will face stemming from the incident nearly two months ago. One thing is for certain; he has been suspended for one game by the Giants when and if he is able to return, and he could face further disciplinary action from Roger Godell.
Despite requests asking for his return to the team from players such as Eli Manning, Antonio Pierce, and others within the organization, the matter is still out of the Giants' hands. If Burress has played his last game for Big Blue, how can the Giants replace a guy who has been the focal point of their offense for the past few seasons?
A name that has come up quite frequently is Super Bowl bound Arizona Cardinals' receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin is a freak of an athlete and someone who leaves it all on the field every down. No further evidence to this fact exists than how quickly he was able to get back on the field after taking a devastating hit that literally broke his face in a game against the New York Jets.
Boldin is known for his grit and his intensity. He is also a terrific receiver who in his six year career has compiled 6,496 yards on 502 receptions with 40 trips to the end zone. These numbers are especially impressive when you take into account that he is not even the number one receiver for the Arizona Cardinals who also have Larry Fitzgerald. It remains to be seen whether Boldin will be able to work out his contract dispute with the Cardinals, but if the two sides are unable to come to agreement do not count the Giants out as a willing trade partner.
If the Giants are unable to pry Boldin from the Cardinals, there remain a bevy of options available to fill Burress' spot. Although the 2009 free agent class does not boast a number one receiving threat, Cincinnati Bengals' receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be one of the best receivers available. During his career in Cincinnati, Houshmandzadeh has played as the number two receiver to Chad Johnson but has still managed to compile some impressive statistics. During his eight year career he has 5,762 receiving yards on 507 receptions with 37 touchdowns. If he had played more than two games in the 2003 season those numbers may have been even more impressive. Should the Bengals chose to retain Houshmandzadeh, the wide receiver crop appears to be pretty thin. This may leave the Giants to have to draft a receiver with one of their early picks or force them to look at other trade options.
In the 2009 draft, the Giants will hold the 29th pick in the first round and if former Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is available he would offer them great size similar to Burress and great speed. Heyward-Bey is being projected as a first to second round pick due to his lack of production at Maryland. He stands 6'3 and has a projected 40 time of 4.39 seconds. His combination of size, speed, and athletic ability could serve as a solution should Burress be unable to play in the 2009 season.
In that same late first to second round that Heyward-Bey is projected we find another potential solution in the form of former Rutgers University wide receiver Kenny Britt. This would be a solid pick as Britt stands 6'4 and is a solid 215 pounds. His 40 time is not blazing but is solid as it should be in the 4.4 range. As a Rutgers alumnus, who has witnessed Britt's play in person, he is an extremely imposing and gifted player who has big play capabilities on any given down.
Another option would be to draft Patrick Turner a product of the USC Trojan system who offers the same type of upside that Heyward-Bey does and is said to be available within the first three rounds. Turner was productive for the Trojans after ascending to the number one receiver duties following the departure of the likes of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. Scouts say for a player his size, listed at 6'5 and 223, he has above average speed but must improve his 40 time in order to move himself into first round discussion. He has the prototypical frame, and is a good route runner.
If the Giants can manage to draft any of these three players it will give them a good insurance policy should Burress have played his last down with the team.
Although there is no internal candidate that is capable enough to fill Burress' shoes, the Giants have a plethora of options available to them whether it is through trade, free agency, or the draft. In the NFL anything is possible so another solution that has not been mentioned can become available at any given time.