Duke Calhoun, Michael Clayton, Derek Hagan, Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Devin Thomas, Ramses Barden, Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Travis Beckum
Yes, I am aware that Travis Beckum was drafted as a tight end/H-back, but the Giants don’t use the H-back and he can’t cut it as a tight end. At this point, his best shot to make the team is as a slot receiver.
Out of those twelve, the only real locks to make the team are Jernigan, Manningham and Nicks. Smith and Hixon are key contributors if healthy, but both are coming back from serious injuries, and Smith is a free agent. I still expect both to be a part of the 2011 team, with Hixon more likely to make the roster, but it is no sure thing.
At most, seven of those twelve will remain on the team, so we have to find five to cut. Adding Burress would mean cutting a sixth.
Clayton, Calhoun, Hagan and Thomas seem to be the most likely in danger of losing a roster spot. Thomas could make it on the strength of his special teams skills, although Hixon can replace those special teams contributions if he is healthy. Hagan was a nice fill-in for Steve Smith down the stretch. He’s not nearly the safety blanket that Smith is, but he gave Eli Manning a solid over-the-middle target. He’s not a dynamic receiver, and the odds are against him, but he could find himself on the roster again if Smith is not healthy and Jernigan is unable to contribute his rookie season.
Barden and Cruz have shown flashes of brilliance in the pre-season, but have had their regular season opportunities negated due to injury. The Giants will do everything they can to keep the two of them on the roster because Jerry Reese knows that if they are cut, they will not have to wait long to find a job offer, possibly from a division rival such as the receiver starved Redskins.
Beckum is in an interesting situation; he is the third string tight end by default, possibly second string of Bear Pascoe remains at fullback. The Giants did not draft a tight end or fullback, but could add one in free agency. He’ll need a big pre-season to prove what he hasn't in his two year NFL career.
From a simple numbers standpoint, the Giants do not need another receiver. If everything breaks right health-wise, the most likely receivers to be kept are Nicks, Smith, Manningham, Hixon, Jernigan, Barden and Cruz. These are the most talented receivers, although it leaves the Giants low on special teams help.
Burress would obviously not help on special teams, so if he were added, it would likely mean cutting a receiver that cannot help on special teams: perhaps Barden. Are the Giants willing to give up on their 2009 third round pick for a 34 year old who has been out of the game for two years?
While it is clear that Burress has the ability help this team on offense, the question should not be “do you want Plaxico Burress back,” but rather “who would you cut to make room for him?”