Plaxico Rumors Just Won't Die

For the last three weeks, rumors out of Pittsburgh have the Steelers shopping wide receiver Plaxico Burress. There is little doubt he wants out of Pittsburgh and he could be moved before the NFL draft in April.

I'm a huge proponent of the Chiefs upgrading the wide receiver corps in 2004. They must find a #1 receiver if they want to make this offense unstoppable. I'm already on record as stating that the Chiefs should at least talk with Terrell Owens.

But now that every NFL insider is publicly stating what we broke three weeks ago, rumors just won't die that the Chiefs are interesting in trading their #30th pick of the first round plus last year's #1 draft pick Larry Johnson.

On paper, it sounds like a great idea. The Chiefs would save money by dumping Johnson and the cost of the #1 draft pick in April's draft. But they'd have to absorb the final year of his contract. Burress will earn $1.875 million in 2004 and he'll be looking for a hefty pay raise.

The Chiefs could easily absorb the money and some in the organization wouldn't mine seeing Johnson leave. I for one do not feel that way. Johnson had a brutal rookie year but he still has plenty of upside provided he gets his head on straight and commits himself to working hard over the off-season.

Johnson has a solid family base and a solid coaching staff behind him despite the fact that management insisted he be drafted a year ago. But they remain dedicated to giving him a real opportunity to showcase his skills in 2004.

But with the rumors continuing to fly around NFL circles about this possible trade, the Chiefs should consider talking with the Steelers if it remotely a possibility. Most NFL rumors this time a year have little basis or fact behind them.

A perfect example and why I'm slamming my own column is the recent rumor involving Mark Brunell going from Jacksonville to the Redskins. Everyone said it would be a done deal now the Redskins are backing off because the Chargers are offering Jacksonville more draft compensation. The Chargers have always been in first position in this deal and are likely going to land Brunell before draft day.

So the bottom line to all these rumors is that none of them mean very little in February unless they continue to surface in March and April. So take it all with a grain of salt!

Still the Steelers have significant cap issues and they must trim some payroll. Rumor out of Pittsburgh is that the Steelers offense is going to be gutted from a new quarterback to an emphasis on the running game. Thus Burress is expendable and the Steelers are confident that Hinds Ward can be the go-to-guy in 2004.

Burress, like Owens has plenty of baggage. Fans in Pittsburgh have referred to him as Plexi-Glass Burress because he falls down all the time and shows little passion for the game. But in the right offense and under the right coaching staff, he could be the perfect addition for a high-octane team like the Chiefs. Burress would give the Chiefs an unbeatable foursome on offense.

With Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes on the field with Burress, Kansas City could score 35 points by halftime in half their games next year.

Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil recently said that signing the teams remaining free agents would be the teams highest priority. But it was clear after the playoff loss to the Colts, that Kansas City must have a premier receiver in order for Vermeil to feel comfortable about his offense.

Johnnie Morton, who dropped more passes than every other NFL wide receiver outside of Seattle Seahawks Darrell Jackson, last year; could be released on June 1st. That would force the Chiefs to take a $1.5 salary cap hit in 2005 and 2006 plus partial monies owed to Morton for the 2004 season.

But it's a number the Chiefs could absorb by re-doing a contract or two. Right now the Chiefs are about $5--8 million under the anticipated cap for 2004. But with John Tait, Jerome Woods, Jason Dunn and Eric Hicks still unsigned, that number could shrink quickly.

It's painfully obvious that the Chiefs might do very little to change the face of the roster from 2003 to 2004 but adding Burress would be an incredible gamble with huge upside.

Now adding Burress won't solve the problems on defense. But in the NFL teams sliding up or down from year to year can be evaluated based on two things; making your strengths even stronger (the offense) or making your weakness stronger (the defense). Now that's the $10 Million question out at Arrowhead.

If the Chiefs are not going to add any defensive talent to the roster for the 2004 season, then they better increase the productivity of the Chiefs offense. In order for that to happen, the Chiefs might have to sacrifice the future of Larry Johnson or not sign players like Hicks, Tait or Woods.

That's a risky proposition either way but if the Chiefs have the opportunity to acquire Burress, then they better do it. Even if the Chiefs can't resign him to a contract beyond 2004, they will at least have a player who will be very motivated to get a new contract. Most NFL players are at their best in a contract year.

So acquiring Burress worth every penny and sacrifice the Chiefs should be more than willing to make. The Chiefs lost to the Colts in part because of the poor esecution of their defense but also in part to the offense and its inability to score two touchdowns in the Red Zone.

Vermeil understands that better than anyone else in the organization. So if this rumor continues to swirl in March and April, consider the Chiefs officially in the Plaxico Burress sweepstakes.


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