Moss, T.O. or Burress? One play caller says safest bet Burress

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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You're an NFL club looking to sign a veteran wide receiver when the NFL lockout ends. The problem is: You don't know where to turn next. There are three playmakers out there that are intriguing -- Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress -- but you don't know which to choose.

In fact, you don't know if you should choose any of them. So where do you go?

I posed that question to an offensive coordinator I respect, someone who coached with and against these guys for years, and I asked if he could help by deconstructing each in a loose scouting report.

He said he could ... and he did.

Randy Moss

Moss 'can probably still run deep,' but is he worth the risk in the locker room? (Getty Images)  
Moss 'can probably still run deep,' but is he worth the risk in the locker room? (Getty Images)  
Pluses: "He can probably still run deep, which means he can get behind people. When a guy is able to do that, you have to account for him -- just because of who he is. I'm not sure if people roll to him anymore, but if they do that's going to affect where others line up. I mean if they 'cloud' [roll] to his side with the corner up on him instead of the safety then you're going to run the ball at his man. He has moments where he's productive, but I emphasize moments because they're fewer and fewer."

Minuses: "With every team it seems like he's divisive. It's like he's always in the middle of something. Now at New England they kept him under wraps as long as they could, but as time went on he didn't run certain routes or he'd take plays off or he just didn't seem all that interested, and I'm sure that annoyed [quarterback Tom] Brady. So the Patriots got rid of him. With Randy, you can never be sure he's in it for the others. What I mean by that is that if he can't perform on a consistent basis -- and he didn't last year -- and he's not doing what he can for the team, is it really worth having him around your locker room? There was no atmosphere that was better for him than New England, but eventually he showed himself, and the team moved on. That should tell you something."

Verdict: "I honestly don't know who would take him at this stage of his career. I'm sure someone will, and I keep hearing about the Jets. That makes sense because all Rex Ryan does is make everyone who goes in there better. He can clown around, but the guy does a magnificent job. I have all the respect for him and think he's one of the best coaches in the NFL. If he can get something out of Randy Moss it only enhances that reputation. But I'll be honest with you: I don't see them doing anything here unless they lose Brad Smith and Braylon Edwards because then they'll sink all their money into re-signing Santonio Holmes."

Terrell Owens

Even at 38, Owens can still put up numbers, but he can also split a locker room. (Getty Images)  
Even at 38, Owens can still put up numbers, but he can also split a locker room. (Getty Images)  
Pluses: "The guy keeps himself in extraordinary physical condition, and as long as you limit the reps he takes each week -- so you don't tire his legs -- he's going to put up numbers. There were times last season where he dominated in stretches at Cincinnati. He also has a competitive level that exceeds almost everyone who's out there. When he gets the juices flowing he's tough to control. But the question is: How many times are you going to get that? I don't know."

Minuses: "Without question, he is the most divisive guy I've ever been around. When you're talking to him, he may seem OK. But it's all an act. Behind the scenes, he's a selfish clubhouse lawyer and backstabber, and he'll affect those around him to the point where there's almost nothing you can do about it. Age (he turns 38 this season) is certainly a factor because you don't know how much more you're going to get out of him. When you look at the player he was in Dallas, it's scary. But that change of direction and acceleration are no longer there. Plus, he sets his own rules -- like he won't look for a deep ball until he beats his guy [defender]. Now, that could be 60 yards. So, in the meantime, the quarterback is holding and holding and holding. He's not someone who's going to go out there and find the ball, and that gets frustrating for everyone. Plus, I'll be honest: He's a chicken over the middle. If there's space, he'll go and get the ball. If not, forget it."

Verdict: "I wouldn't touch him, but I guarantee someone will. If he's going to be successful it will have to be with a veteran team that he can be part of and where he can have some fun -- and I can't name that team. One word of warning: You better have a strong head coach and a strong position coach to handle him, because if you don't it's over. He'll just do what he wants to do."

Plaxico Burress

Burress has nothing to lose after spending nearly two years in prison. (Getty Images)  
Burress has nothing to lose after spending nearly two years in prison. (Getty Images)  
Pluses: "Do you remember that Green Bay game in the [2007] playoffs? Man, he absolutely dominated it. He kept beating Al Harris' rear end, and it wasn't as if he was running by the guy; it was stuff like back-shoulder fades. Now, I can't imagine he got faster with two years in prison. But you can't be sure what happened there. He tended to be lazy and somewhat disruptive before -- he didn't seem to abide by team rules -- but he's hit rock bottom, just like Michael Vick did years ago. And Vick turned his life around. So you never know. Of all the guys we're talking about he's going to be in the best frame of mind because he has nothing to lose. He already lost everything. So he has a chance to be a better guy; a chance to be something he wasn't before."

Minuses: "Well, certainly his age is something you have to take into account. He turns 34 this summer. He never was an over-the-top workout guy or a leader or a fast guy to begin with. Plus, he wasn't a top-shelf receiver when he last played. He seemed to be declining. Now he's two years older. The guys who are still around in this game -- the guys who last the longest -- are the Ricky Proehls, receivers who can play every position and create unity. He never was that kind of guy, but at least he has a chance now."

Verdict: "Of the three guys we're talking about he's the easiest to sign because he's the easiest to get rid of. If he doesn't produce or you don't like what you're getting, you just cut him ... no questions asked. No muss, no fuss. It's not like the other two. He's not going to be someone others look to in the locker room for direction; he's just going to do his job. And if he doesn't? You get rid of him."

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