Vikings have re-entered the picture

Updated: March 10, 2005, 11:43 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In the latest setback to Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants announced on Thursday afternoon that they have withdrawn their contract offer to the unrestricted free agent wide receiver, and that they will no longer pursue the former Pittsburgh Steelers starter.

The decision to end negotiations with Burress was announced by general manager Ernie Accorsi in a terse, 20-word statement on the team's Web site.

"The New York Giants are no longer interested in free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress and have withdrawn their offer," the statement read.

Michael Harrison, the agent for Burress, said that the Giants withdrew the proposal only after he and his client rejected their latest offer. That offer, an upgrade from previous proposals suggested by the team, was for six years and $24 million, with roughly $14 million of that payable in the first three years of the deal. The two-tiered bonus would have been about $8 million.

ESPN.com confirmed that Burress was en route Thursday afternoon to the Minnesota Vikings, where he was to meet with team officials and coaches. Burress recently spent several days in Miami with Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings quarterback is said to be lobbying team officials to sign the wide receiver.

Burress arrived at the Giants' headquarters at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and dined with coaches and team officials. He returned to the club's offices on Thursday morning and, after a short meeting, the Giants said they will go in another direction as they attempt to upgrade their wide receiver corps.

One possibility for the Giants is unrestricted free agent Corey Bradford of the Houston Texans, who was scheduled for a Thursday visit.

ESPN.com has learned that, on Wednesday, the Vikings proposed to Harrison the possibility of a one-year contract. Harrison had hinted to ESPN.com on Tuesday night that, if his client did not receive what he considered to be a market-value offer on a long-term deal, he might opt for a one-year contract. On Wednesday night, however, Harrison backed off that stance.

Under a one-year scenario, Burress would hope to have a big season in 2005, then go back into the unrestricted market next spring, theoretically as a more attractive target for teams seeking to upgrade their wide receiver situation.

It is believed that Burress and Harrison are seeking a contract similar to the one former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad signed with the Chicago Bears two weeks ago.

In that deal, Muhammad, released by the Panthers for salary cap reasons after a Pro Bowl season in 2004, signed a six-year contract that could be worth $30 million, and which includes $12 million in guarantees.

No matter the numbers, the dearth of interest in Burress, who played the first five years of his career with the Steelers, has been one of the most puzzling elements of the opening week of the free agency period.

While he experienced some off-field problems in the past, Burress seemed to mature in 2004, when the combination of a run-heavy offense and a rookie starting quarterback limited him to 35 catches, the fewest since his rookie season in 2000.

In a reversal of character, Burress didn't chafe about the offense, made himself a solid down-field blocker, and spoke of team goals above personal performance.

His expectations clearly were that he would be one of the most coveted players in the unrestricted pool, and would strike a quick and lucrative agreement. Those expectations, though, have been dashed.

Harrison has been forced to initiate contact with most of the teams that have discussed his client as a possibility.

While other wide receivers have scored contracts from new clubs, many of them for big money, Burress has generated little buzz. Beyond the Giants, about the only other team to acknowledge interest in the five-year veteran is Minnesota, and the Vikings have said they will only get involved if Burress reduces his contract desires.

The Vikings, of course, traded star wide receiver Randy Moss. Minnesota, however, is also involved in trade negotiations for Washington Redskins starter Rod Gardner.

"We're not going to do something stupid just for the sake of doing it," Harrison said. "We'll come up with something to make it work for 'Plax,' believe me."

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