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Knowing Their Limitations

In the film Magnum Force Clint Eastwood utters the sage advice, "a man's got to know his limitations." These words could be the slogan for the free agency period. For teams with a lot to spend, it's wise to know a player's limitations.

But the same could be said of players. They too, would be wise to know their limitations. Which makes the saga of Plaxico Burress so sad. Rated the top receiver in free agency by almost all pundits, he is still looking for work. He fired his agent the past week and hired hotshot Drew Rosenhaus in an attempt to pump up his market value.

Burress' panjandrums probably won't get him the big money he wants, for a very simple reason: while teams get abused in the press for overpaying players every spring, the NFL as a whole has become much better at assessing player value. You find far fewer teams getting into the deep salary cap trouble you saw five years ago.

And teams have reached a consensus on Burress -- he's not worth the big money. The evidence to support this is clear. Look at the receiving totals the past four years for Burress and Hines Ward, his receiving partner with the Steelers

  • 2001: Ward 94 rec. 1003 yards, Burress 66 rec. 1008 yards
  • 2002: Ward 112 rec. 1329 yards, Burress 78 rec. 1325 yards
  • 2003: Ward 95 rec. 1163 yards, Burress 60 rec. 860 yards
  • 2004: Ward 80 rec. 1004 yards, Burress 35 rec. 698 yards
  • These numbers should bring a clear analogy to mind for Cowboys fans: Ward is Michael Irvin, the guy who wears the hard hat and gets the first downs. Burress is Alvin Harper, who makes big plays and gets the higher yards-per-catch average.

    Dallas fans know well that Harper broke the free agency bank in 1995 with Tampa. They also know that Harper was a bust once he was counted on to be the number one. Burress' problem is that he doesn't know, or won't accept that he's not a Michael Irvin-class wideout.

    The Cowboys are in need of a deep receiver and there was some speculation that they would pursue Burress. But NFL GMs remember Harper too. Especially the one at Valley Ranch. That's why the Cowboys are waiting for the draft to fill this need.