For The Birds Terrell Owens was banking on a new deal with the Eagles, but if he wants to play next season, it will be as a Raven

March 15, 2004

As his dream of catching passes from Donovan McNabb faded last
week, Terrell Owens was not taking the news well. Eagles
president Joe Banner, who talked to Owens last Thursday night
after the 49ers had traded the All-Pro wideout to Baltimore
instead of to Philadelphia, said Owens told him, "I'm so
disappointed. Philly and Baltimore, it's not even close. I want
to be with you guys so bad. Is there anything [I] can do?"

Yes. Grow up. Owens's dissatisfaction goes back to last month
when his agent, David Joseph, missed a deadline to exercise an
option in the wideout's contract with the 49ers that would've
made him a free agent. That oversight allowed San Francisco to
retain his rights and work a trade with the team of its choice.
Amazing as it seems, San Francisco general manager Terry Donahue
could drum up offers from only the Ravens and the Eagles for the
receiver with the most touchdowns in the NFL since the start of
the 2000 season. This is how devalued the T.O. market was last
week: The Jets turned down Donahue's attempt to draw them into
the bidding, instead trading a draft choice that would have
gotten them Owens (New York's second-round pick, the 42nd overall
in April's draft) for fledgling wideout Justin McCareins, who in
three seasons with the Tennessee Titans caught 69 passes. Donahue
had to settle for the Ravens' second-round selection, the 51st
choice. Teams shied away from Owens and his $7 million-a-year
price tag because of his reputation as a terminally unhappy and
distracting player and his penchant for dropping more balls than
a star should.

But at week's end Owens was still fighting the trade, angry
because the Eagles, with permission from San Francisco, had gone
so far as to hammer out a new contract with Joseph. The problem
was that the Niners didn't like either of Philadelphia's trade
offers--initially a fifth-round draft pick plus wideout James
Thrash, then a fifth-round selection plus safety Clinton
Hart--and the Eagles hadn't made a better offer by the time San
Francisco was making the trade with Baltimore. "I'm a Raven for
now, but not for long," Owens said on his website
(terrellowens.com). "The deal was set [in Philadelphia]. I'll
fight this in court if I have to."

Good luck. League sources say the trade agreement with Baltimore
was faxed to the league office last Thursday afternoon, making
the deal official. "He will play for Baltimore or not play,"
Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' executive vice president and general
manager, told SI last Saturday. "I've been told by the [NFL]
Management Council that we have a valid, binding trade agreement
with San Francisco. He's disgruntled now, yes, but this is all
posturing in negotiations." Nevertheless, on Sunday the NFL
Players Association said it would try to have the trade rescinded
and, if that failed, seek to have Owens's contract voided,
thereby making him a free agent.

The Eagles, who have been to three straight NFC Championship
Games but have come up short in part because they lacked the
offensive weapons to complement McNabb, were bitter that San
Francisco didn't give them a chance to make a third offer for
Owens. Donahue said the two sides were too far apart for him to
think a deal could have been consummated. "A fifth and James
Thrash for T.O.?" said Donahue, the onetime UCLA coach. "Come on,
that's not even close." --P.K.

COLOR PHOTO: MATT BROWN/NEWSPORT FORMER 49ER OWENS DIDN'T GET HIS WISH

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