Burress worth a shot

There are many reasons for the Raiders to stay clear of Plaxico Burress. Yet there are equally compelling arguments why it would make sense for Al Davis and company to take a risk on the talented but troubled wide receiver.

The mere mention of Plaxico Burress' name has been enough to make most NFL general managers cringe over the past seven months, and for good reason. The 31-year-old veteran wide receiver, who was released by the New York Giants in April, is staring at an uncertain future, on and off the field, as a result of having shot himself in the thigh at a Manhattan night club on Nov. 29.

Burress faces a felony charge of criminal possession of a loaded an unlicensed hangun, which carries a mandatory minimum 3 ½-year sentence. New York governor Mario Bloomberg has been one of the most outspoken critics of Burress, in December saying it would be "an outrage if we don't prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."

Donte Stallworth received only 30 days in jail after being arrested for DWI in an accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
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Burress' lawyers, however, are arguing for a much lighter sentence, citing the 30-day jail sentence given to the Cleveland Browns' Donte Stallworth after he was cited for DWI in an accident that killed one person.

The case with Burress has been adjourned until Sept. 23, meaning Burress could theoretically sign with an NFL team and play when the regular season begins Sept.10. That is, of course, if he's not suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. ESPN reported recently that Goodell had begun reviewing Burress' case to see if he had violated the league's personal conduct policy.

Goodell doesn't have to wait for the legal process to play out before making his decision and is likely to pass down his judgment before teams open training camp in late July.

But even if Burress is suspended – which would likely be for four games – the Raiders and Davis ought to take a long look at signing him.

Remember, before he shot himself Burress was coming off the a three-year stretch in which he averaged 69 receptions, 1,075 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught the winning score in Super Bowl XLII and, at 31 years old, still has a lot of mileage left.

In Oakland, he would become the unquestioned No. 1 receiver on a unit that is comprised mostly of young and unproven talent. The Raiders used two of their top three draft picks this year to grab Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy in hopes of beefing of the receiving corps, but Heyward-Bey – the seventh overall pick in the draft – has been slowed by a lingering hamstring injury most of the offseason and wasn't exactly impressive when he was healthy.

Javon Walker is the only receiver the Raiders have who has any extended playing experience in the NFL.
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The only veteran receiver to speak of is Javon Walker, who has his own troubled past and who had minimal contributions on the field last year in his first season with Oakland.

The Raiders spent a lot of the offseason improving the supporting cast around quarterback JaMarcus Russell but the receiving corps has some serious question marks.

Burress' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, reportedly has said there are five teams interested in his client, though he declined to say which teams.

Burress would be a definite risk, no question, but one worth taking if you're Al Davis.

The Raiders – like any team that wants to sign Burress – could include an out in the contract that allows them to escape the deal should Burress be convicted and sentenced to a lengthy jail term, so they wouldn't be on the hook financially if his legal troubles don't go away.

But what if Burress does get a light sentence? And what if Goodell decides to only suspend Burress for four games? Then Oakland will have a top-flight receiver for the second half of the season and, more importantly, a cornerstone receiver to build around until their young talent matures.

Davis has taken risks like this before and there's no reason not to do it again.

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