In the spring of 2009, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum took a break from the NFL meetings in South Florida and went to visit a troubled wide receiver.
They met with Plaxico Burress, a person familiar with the meeting said Saturday. At the time, Burress was looking at jail time on gun charges. The Jets' brass wanted to get to know him and inquire about his legal situation.
Now, after serving two years in prison, Burress is looking for a job and the Jets are looking for a receiver. Yes, they're interested again. This time, they mean business.
Looking for a No. 2 receiver to start opposite Santonio Holmes, the Jets are giving strong consideration to Burress, a league source confirmed. The Jets would like to bring Burress to their facility for a visit, but that meeting won't happen Sunday, a source said.
A Jets-Burress marriage makes sense on different levels. After re-signing the 5-foot-11 Holmes to a five-year, $50 million contract earlier this week, the Jets are looking to give quarterback Mark Sanchez a big target. He had that guy last season in Braylon Edwards (6-foot-3), but Edwards is a free agent and unlikely to return.
Burress, who turns 34 in two weeks, comes with baggage, but the Jets pride themselves on being able to work with players that have off-the-field issues. Look no further than Holmes, who was sent packing by the Steelers after multiple incidents. The Jets traded a fifth-round pick for Holmes knowing he'd have to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Burress already has met with his two former teams, the Giants and Steelers. The latter meeting occurred Saturday at the Steelers' training camp in Latrobe, Pa., where he talked with coaches, executives and former teammates. He told ex-teammates the Jets want him, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The San Francisco 49ers are also interested and Burress was reportedly meeting with team officials late Saturday, according to multiple media reports.
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke would not discuss Burress or any free agents possibly visiting the team, according to the reports. But
a source said the 49ers might emerge as the favorite, explaining "I think he will go for the dollars," according to the New York Post.
There's also speculation that Burress wants to play for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Unlike the Steelers, who will have to restructure contracts and perhaps cut players to get under the salary cap, the Jets have some flexibility. They have the money they were planning to spend on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who wound up signing with the Eagles.
The Jets made some minor deals over the last 24 hours, retaining safety Eric Smith with a three-year contract and signing cornerback Donald Strickland for one year, but they still have enough space to splurge on a player. That player could be cornerback Antonio Cromartie, although a return to the Jets isn't a slam dunk.
Edwards still is floating in free agent limbo, but a strong market hasn't developed, according to a league source. He's looking to be paid like a No. 1 receiver, and the Jets have no intention of meeting that demand, which has led them to Burress. Aside from Holmes, the only veteran receivers under contract are Jerricho Cotchery, coming off back surgery, and Patrick Turner. The Jets lost Brad Smith to the Buffalo Bills.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.