Monday, January 16, 2006

You Heard It Here First: Terrell Owens to Remain in Philadelphia

Stephen A Smith of the Philly Inquirer and ESPN posits that the Iggles should keep Terrell "Terrible" Owens and work toward a trade with a risk-taking (read that "sucker," as in one born every minute) owner like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder. I think that move happens over Joe Gibbs' dead body. Old schooler Bill Parcells won't buy into it either. For one thing, The Cowboys need to spend salary money fixing their offensive line, not on prima donna malcontents. But Snyder, in his "Little Danny" days, would fall for just this type gimmick. It didn't work in the days before Gibbs. I can only hope that Mr. Snyder is taking notes from Gibbs now about the proper way to build a team and the wise use of the salary cap.

Besides, there are compelling reasons why Owens should remain in Philadelphia. When the Iggles and Owens face the high cost of their impending divorce, emotion may give way to cool reality. That sounds preposterous until one recalls the strange case of Ricky Williams, the former and current running back for the Miami Dolphins. Owens disruptive behavior pales in comparison to Williams, who sank his team's shot at a playoff, not to mention his coach's career, before the 2004 season even began. Yet, Miami found good reason to welcome Williams back the following year.

Using Ricky Williams as a guide, here's how TO compares.

Ricky Williams abruptly announces retirement two days before the start of training camp. He is a no show the entire season. He is the key player in Miami's offense. His abrupt announcement comes when it's too late to find a quality replacement. The Dolphins are doomed.

Terrell Owens vocally announces his dissatisfaction with his contract, signed a year earlier. He threatens to sit out training camp, but shows up on schedule.

Ricky Williams announces that he has for years used marijuana in violation of NFL drug policy and that he took steps to evade detection by the league. He expressed his intent to continue the practice for "medical reasons." The NFL revealed that Williams had failed a drug test and faced a four game suspension to be enforced at the start of the 2004 season. Williams was informed of that fact a few days before his abrupt retirement.

Terrell Owens was a divisive force on his team after he became dissatisfied with his contract when Randy Moss (Raiders) and Marvin Harrison (Colts) signed new agreements with their teams. When Owens signed his contract with the Eagles in 2003 he became one of the highest paid receivers, but fell to third highest after Moss' and Harrison's agreements. Owens agitates for more money. The Eagles refuse to renegotiate "after only one season." Owens believes the Iggles committed to redo his agreement after one year even though he signed a multi-year agreement that contains no such provision. He threatens to sit out the season, as does other Drew Rosenhaus clients Hines Ward and Jevon Walker. Ward, Walker and Owens show up on schedule for training camp, but Owens allegedly announced he would only play, but would be disruptive and uncooperative, then proceeds to be exactly that. He openly criticizes the organization and maligns other players, especially Donovan McNabb. He refuses to cooperate with his coaches between games. Owens has never been suspected of drug use.

Ricky Williams does not participate in the 2004 season. The Dolphins finish 4-12 largely because the team is unable to find a replacement running back equal to Williams talents. Head coach Deve Wannstadt is fired before the end of the season.

Terrell Owens plays the first half of the season but is slowed by an injury. His increasing disruption and insubordination lead to a four game suspension followed by deactivation by the team. For the season, Owens led Eagles receivers in yards (742) and touchdowns (6) despite playing just seven games.

Ricky Williams - Dolphin players feel betrayed and angry by Williams unexpected departure. He is not wanted by them.

Terrell Owens - Eagles players lobby head coach Andy Reid to allow Owens to return.

Nick Saban is hired as the Dolphins head coach. Faced with the prospect of getting no value for the prodigal running back, Saban opens a dialog with Williams that leads to a return to the team in 2005. After some reluctance, he is accepted by the players. He sits out his four game suspension, then appears in twelve games. He gains 743 yards for a 4.4 yards per carry average and scores six touchdowns, eerily similar to Owens numbers. Miami has trade value where none existed before. If the Dolphins retain his services, they will have a potent ground game with Williams and rookie Ronnie Brown.

The Eagles may be taking notes. Faced with the prospect of getting no value for Owens, they give Drew Rosenhaus, Owens agent, permission to seek a trade.

There's no certainty that Rosenhaus will find a potential trading partner. Teams would have to give up high draft positions to land Owens and risk discontent over contract issues. It's more likely they will wait for the Eagles to release Owens, then take their chances on the open market. For the Eagles, the prospect of a salary cap hit and getting nothing in exchange for Owens surely makes them swallow hard.

When healthy, the Eagles are a playoff team. When healthy with Owens they are a Super Bowl team. In the newly competitive NFC East, that's big. One more season together could give the Eagles another shot at the title and give TO a chance to rehabilitate his reputation a la Ricky Williams. Then a trade for high value becomes possible for the Eagles while a year of good behavior increases Owens bargaining position. This is win-win, if all the Eagle egos step aside.

It's not easy being green, but Owens on the 2006 roster is the best business move for everyone, except Donovan McNabb.

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