The Giants have been toeing a pretty conservative line when it comes to discussing Plaxico Burress' future with the team. G.M. Jerry Reese has repeatedly referred to the wide receiver as a member of the team, albeit one they suspended after Burress shot himself in the leg. That suspension and subsequent efforts to withhold money from Burress, however, make it pretty clear that the team has to look elsewhere for certainty in their passing game.
According to the Sporting News, their gaze has fallen on T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Bengals receiver becomes a free agent just after midnight on Friday, and the Giants won't be able to wait long before someone snaps him up. Housh is the best receiver on the open market this season. He's caught 294 passes over the last three seasons, is fearless going over the middle and has enough speed to keep defenses honest.
Houshmandzadeh has piled up impressive numbers, but it is worth noting that he's had the talented Chad Johnson opposite him in the Bengal lineup for most of the last three years. Housh has been a possession receiver, for the most part, while Johnson is the guy who scares defenses and opens up the underneath patterns. He may be capable of stepping into the first receiver role or he may be a guy who is best used as a complement to a more talented partner.
Based on that pedigree, Houshmandzadeh would actually be stepping into Amani Toomer's shoes with the Giants. He's better than Toomer at this point in their careers, but he's not going to make the Giant offense as dangerous as it was with Burress in the lineup.
Few receivers have Plax's mix of size, speed and wingspan. There were countless times when those three things combined to turn a poorly thrown Eli Manning pass into a big play, and that intoxicating mix is why a player with Burress rap sheet and attitude problems still has a shot at a future with the Giants. The comments of Reese and others may be designed to keep a trade market alive if Burress is eligible to play next season, but the Giants know they're better with him than without him.
And that's the rub. The Giants are painted into a corner because they know their offense needs Burress, while their conscience and credibility will take a hit if they welcome him back.