The New York Giants finally began their courtship of free-agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress late Wednesday. Or, rather, Burress finally let them begin it, and it's possible that Burress will sign with the team today if the two sides can find a way to bridge the gap between the club's offer and the wideout's considerably heftier expectations.
Burress showed up Wednesday for his visit with the Giants, which originally had been scheduled for Monday but was postponed because the wide receiver remained at his home in Miami, passing along word to the team that he was sick with the flu. Many people around the league believed that any queasiness Burress was experiencing stemmed from the Giants' offer of a contract worth about $3.5 million per season, including a signing bonus of about $4 million. Burress has been seeking bonus money of $10 million or more as part of a multi-year deal worth about $5 million per season.
The Giants seem to hold the leverage in the negotiations. There has been surprisingly little interest in Burress -- a two-time 1,000-yard receiver in five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers after being the eighth player selected in the 2000 NFL draft -- since the unrestricted free-agent market opened last week. There have been rumblings that Minnesota and Philadelphia could jump into the negotiations, but only if Burress's asking price drops.
Burress was scheduled to dine with members of the Giants' coaching staff Wednesday night, and is to return to South Florida today. The Giants need a receiver after releasing Ike Hilliard, and his addition would give quarterback Eli Manning one more option to go with tight end Jeremy Shockey, wideout Amani Toomer and tailback Tiki Barber.
The Giants already have made two significant free-agent additions by obtaining middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie (along with kicker Jay Feely and veteran backup quarterback Jim Miller). If they get Burress as well, they would join the Dallas Cowboys in appearing to have made strides this offseason in closing the gap in the NFC East on the Eagles, who won the division by a whopping seven games last season.
QB Decisions Due
Free-agent quarterback Jeff Garcia is slated to make a decision in the coming days about whether to sign with Denver, Detroit, Seattle or Tampa Bay as a backup. The Lions could sign Brad Johnson if they don't get Garcia. Johnson threw for about 20 minutes Wednesday, as he wrapped up a visit to Detroit, to try to demonstrate to club officials that his arm is sound.
Johnson is to be in Chicago today. The Bears already hosted Jay Fiedler this week, but he seems to be leaning toward accepting a backup job with the New York Jets. . . .
The Broncos have until Friday to decide whether to match the Jets' five-year, $12.5 million offer sheet to tight end Jeb Putzier, a restricted free agent. The deal includes a signing bonus of $2.5 million. Denver can retain Putzier, who had 36 catches last season, by matching the offer, or can allow the tight end to depart and receive a sixth-round draft choice from the Jets as compensation. The Broncos seem poised to match the offer, but the two teams perhaps could work out a trade in which the Jets would get Putzier but would provide Denver with more in compensation. . . .
Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian told agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents tailback Edgerrin James, during a telephone conversation Wednesday that the team cannot afford a long-term contract for James. Polian told Rosenhaus that James will either play for the Colts next season under the one-year, approximately $8 million contract due to him after being given the club's franchise-player tag, or be traded.
That wasn't news to anyone in the league, since it was widely known that the Colts would consider trade offers for James. They already have locked up quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marvin Harrison to expensive contract extensions, and they have not yet secured approval for a financing plan for a new stadium in Indianapolis that would ensure them of having bolstered revenue streams in the future. James has made it clear in the past that he wouldn't mind being elsewhere, and trading him and going with a younger running back might enable the Colts to save money and, at the same time, improve their defense.
What was news, however, was that Polian also told Rosenhaus it wouldn't necessarily take a first-round draft choice for a team to acquire James. Polian indicated that the Colts might settle for less, according to Rosenhaus, making a trade much more likely. . . .
Veteran linebacker Ike Reese left the Eagles on Wednesday by signing with Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent. Reese reached the Pro Bowl last season as a special-teams selection, and was one of the Eagles' locker-room leaders. The Eagles want to re-sign another free-agent outside linebacker, Keith Adams, but he visited the Falcons on Wednesday. . . .
Linebacker Donnie Spragan, formerly of the Broncos, agreed to a two-year, nearly $2 million deal with Miami that includes a $500,000 signing bonus. . . . The Broncos seem close to re-signing free-agent defensive tackle Luther Elliss. . . . Arizona re-signed defensive end Peppi Zellner, an unrestricted free agent. . . . Seattle re-signed tight end Itula Mili, who had drawn interest from a few clubs on the unrestricted free agent market. . . . St. Louis signed tight end Roland Williams, who'd been released by Oakland, and re-signed guard Darnell Alford. . . .
Houston signed cornerback Lewis Sanders, an unrestricted free agent from Cleveland, and re-signed defensive end Corey Sears, safety Jason Simmons and fullback Jarrod Baxter. Sears and Simmons had been unrestricted free agents, and Baxter was a restricted free agent. The Browns thought they had a deal to re-sign Sanders, but he opted for the Texans' offer instead. . . . Browns linebacker Andra Davis took himself off the restricted free agent market by signing Cleveland's one-year, $1.43 million contract tender. . . .
New Orleans reached a contract agreement with tight end Shad Meier, who became an unrestricted free agent when Tennessee declined to exercise an option for next season in his contract. . . . Kicker Joe Nedney, released as part of the Titans' salary-cap purge last month, agreed to a deal with San Francisco. . . . Carolina wideout Ricky Proehl told a North Carolina television station this week that he will return to the Panthers for a 16th NFL season. Proehl, 37, was talked out of retiring by Panthers Coach John Fox. . . . Wide receiver Keenan McCardell signed a two-year contract extension with San Diego through the 2007 season. He received a $4.1 million signing bonus and agreed to reduce his salary for the 2005 season.