By the time Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens released a statement last Friday saying he would no longer be commenting on his demands for a new contract, there really wasn't much else for him to say. Earlier in the week Owens told anyone who would listen--including CNBC talk show host Donny Deutsch, who watched as Owens broke down in tears on the air--that the seven-year, $49 million contract he signed 13 months ago was no longer sufficient.
Owens took what he said was a substandard deal from the Eagles after he engineered a trade from San Francisco, which had wanted to send him to Baltimore. "[The Eagles] used their leverage to strong-arm us because they knew I wanted to leave Baltimore for Philadelphia, and they capitalized on it," Owens told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I can't go for that now." Owens's 2005 salary is $3.25 million; his backloaded deal, which included an $8.5 million signing bonus, will pay him $28 million over the final four years--assuming he is still with the Eagles. Last year Owens, 31, showed signs of wear for the first time in his 10-year career when a broken leg and severely sprained ankle kept him out of four games. Still, Owens will likely never be in a stronger negotiating position. He had a team-record 14 touchdown catches last year and became beloved in Philadelphia. And he can point to the precedent set last week when the Patriots gave running back Corey Dillon a five-year, $25 million extension after one season with the team.
But it won't be easy for Owens. The first meeting between his new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Eagles president Joe Banner lasted less than 10 minutes. It wasn't surprising. The Eagles thrive on playing hardball. They've had bitter public negotiations with Duce Staley and Jeremiah Trotter, and Banner has frowned upon guaranteeing money to any player in his 30s. Banner also must consider the message that appeasing Owens would send to other Eagles--including running back Brian Westbrook and defensive tackles Hollis Thomas and Corey Simon--who have said they'd like new deals. The negotiation could turn into one of the more fascinating off-season events since ... well, since last winter, when Owens showed a knack for getting his way by pulling off an escape from San Francisco. --Jeffri Chadiha
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