In about a month, Terrell Owens will become a free agent at a time when his value might be at the lowest of his career. Buffalo had a rough year and Owens was no exception, posting modest numbers in most categories. At 36, he's old, and the explosiveness that put up the touchdowns and the dollars of the past is seemingly gone. Plus, and you knew this couldn't be ignored, he has a colorful past of: openly speaking his mind when most would consider it inappropriate, theatrics with the media, demonstrative celebrations of personal triumph, and generally brash and (in the opinion of some) excessively self-promoting behavior. Those reasons too will limit the amount of interested teams, and in turn, lower his price tag. Yet that is not his tragedy.
If TO still wants to play, it's not for more money. He has hit his jackpot, and while the three to five million bucks he'll make next year is still out of this world to most of us (except my Dad, of course; he's uber loaded), it's a modest sum for today's starting receivers. Brian Billick wrote in his book, More Than A Game, that veteran players in their twilight are only there to win championships. Billick wrote that he loved having those kind of players on his teams because not only could they still play, they helped the younger players as well. If that's true, Owens isn't just going to sign on with the biggest dollar amount he can find; the team that signs him will have to convince him that they can win the Super Bowl.
Enter Mike Brown (roll your eyes all you want). Here is a guy who is clearly unafraid of signing the most volatile and potentially harmful personalities in the universe; Darth Vader was rumored to have once tried out as a pass-rushing end for the Bengals in 2004.
But to compare Terrell Owens to a sith lord just isn't right; in fact, TO doesn't seem like much of a problem anymore. The last I remember hearing from that certain sector of the media frenzy was that they, the media, who needed anything at all to fill the voracious sports news cycle with something, were baiting him into saying something crazy. Who's the villain in that scenario?
The better question is: was TO ever a problem? I think the answer is still yes. Thinking back to him screaming at every single person on the sideline had to have been irksome and tough to tolerate as a teammate, and any single player who puts himself above the team isn't seeing the big picture and therefore isn't worth anyone's time. I think while he will always be his brash, verbose self, TO has learned the damage that public infighting creates. At least I'd like to think so. At 36, he has to have absorbed some importance of what a Super Bowl victory means to a person's career.
What Owens doesn't do is get arrested. While I didn't watch any of his reality TV show, those that did said that it was really boring. To me that's a good thing. We already have one super-mouth; bringing in a second might cancel out the other and neutralize the affect. Why wouldn't Chad and TO get along? When one is upset he didn't get the ball, the other can explain the situation as a person whose been there before. Marvin would likely tolerate Owens because, a) he has to if Brown signed him, and b) TO might be a lot of things, but a bum he is not. He works hard and stays in shape; coaches like those characteristics in a player.
With the absence of the salary cap, it no longer matters what they get paid. If Brown wants to give him 12 million bucks for one season, who cares?; it's now his money and we're all at the mercy of its whims. Last season a person could argue that Owens would count too much against the cap and that might be valid, but now, we as fans can only put together a wish list and hope for the best.
Yet, the most important reason to get Owens is what he does on the field, of course.
I keep hearing that the Bengals need to draft a speedy receiver and I don't see it that way at all. What the Bengals don't need to do next season is stop running the ball; Cedric Benson has special ability right now and Cincinnati will ride on his shoulders again next year for good reason. The passing attack unquestionably needs to acquire more weapons to make up for Chris Henry's loss in particular, but not necessarily with lots of speed.
First off, TO is still pretty fast, but that's not the point. Chad Ochocinco is the deep threat for the Bengals and will be until he's 40. A lot of analysts point to the void that Chris Henry left; Owens can fulfill a lot of what Henry could do and then some (like block).
The thing that was so sorely missing late last season was a reliable target on third down. Chad was swarmed with defenders, Coles and Caldwell simply underperformed, the tight-end situation was laughable and the Bengals never did get the hang of the screen play. Owens is a bigger target that can separate and get open, a veteran player with proven instincts, a match-up problem for opposing defenses, what more do you want?
Outside of the possibility of Brandon Marshall hitting the market, TO might be the best available free-agent receiver out there. Sure the team can draft one, but wouldn't it be nice to sign an impact player and draft at a different position, and really dress yourself like a championship team for 2010?
At this point, it seems like Terrell Owens landing in Cincinnati next year is a long-shot. If anything, it's likely Owens stays in Buffalo and wastes his precious remaining talents on a throwaway quarterback from the Ivy League, and that is his tragedy. The lost years; the forgotten road.
Mojokong---TO is a mix of Peer Gynt, Zaphod Beeblebrox and B.A. Baracus. All once powerful, but eventually kind of sad.