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Posted: Monday March 9, 2009 9:03AM; Updated: Monday March 9, 2009 12:43PM
Peter King Peter King >

The Bills know they're taking a risk by bringing in T.O.

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Three reasons the Buffalo Bills signed Terrell Owens

Kerry Collins is closing in on Joe Montana in passing yards

First Sergeant Mike McGuire checks in from Iraq

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Terrell Owens
The Buffalo Bills decided the rewards were worth the risk, so they signed the controversial Terrell Owens.
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A quiet weekend in the league, with one exception -- plus good and very bad news from Iraq, and a fairly emotional King family move. Those are the headlines I've got for you, with an apology for running late today on the column.


"How about T.O.?''

Bills chief operating office Russ Brandon woke up sometime after midnight Friday morning and noticed there was a text message on his cell phone. So he reached over and looked. It was from Trent Edwards, the quarterback of the Bills. "How about T.O.?'' That's all it said.

Brandon shot back with this: "?''

"T.O. was released. Go get him,'' Edwards texted back.

Brandon still seemed surprised when I spoke to him late Sunday. "I went back to sleep,'' he said, "but I was stunned by it. The next morning, [coach] Dick Jauron and I talked, and he said, 'I think it's something we certainly should take a look at.' I put a call into [owner] Ralph Wilson, and he said, 'Absolutely look into it.'''

And that was it. The only team to seriously kick the tires on Owens got its man a day later for three major reasons:

1. The Bills think Jauron is the perfect coach -- calm but commanding -- to handle Mount Terrell.

2. The organization is sick of perpetually being one weapon away from catching New England (and Miami and the Jets, as it turns out), and it's willing to take the risk of having Owens ruin the locker room so it can have a chance to win the division.

3. The Bills did the one-year deal for a fairly strategic reason, in my opinion. Owens is good when he's trying to make a good first impression. Check out his first years in his three prior stops -- with the San Francisco season being his first without Jerry Rice on the team, when the focus of the offense was clearly on him:

Season G Rec. Yards TD
San Francisco, 2001 16 93 1,412 16
Philadelphia, 2004 14 77 1,200 14
Dallas, 2006 16 85 1,180 13

I have to say that, even though I view Owens as the most divisive force in the NFL today, and even though he drops far more balls than a top player should (12 per year, on average, over the past three years), I understand why the Bills did what they did. It's been 10 years since their last playoff appearance. They're the Washington Generals to the Patriots. And Owens will be on his best behavior in 2009, determined to prove wrong all of us who make a living out of criticizing him (oh, it's sooooo hard to do that), and determined to get one more big-money deal out of the Bills or some other team.

"From our standpoint,'' Brandon said, "everything we do is a risk. I was criticized for the Marcus Stroud trade last year, but it turned out to be a pretty good deal for us. Some people have been asleep for the past 10 years. We haven't made the playoffs. We owe it to our fans, and I owe it to the owner, to try to improve our team to finally get back into the playoffs. We needed another playmaker on offense, and we think this opportunity gives us the chance to be more explosive than we are right now. You roll the dice in this business sometimes. We think it's an acceptable risk.''

We'll see. Owens and Lee Evans (last three seasons: 200 catches, 16.0 yards-per-catch) could be a formidable duo, but Edwards is going to find out early that he'll need to throw the ball to Owens more than Evans. Everyone will say Edwards just needs to hit the open guy, but I don't buy it; it hasn't been that way for Owens since 2000, when Rice was on the other side of the field, and it's not going to happen even though Evans is a borderline star receiver. Can Edwards cope with Owens' demands? Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo could -- for a while -- but eventually it overwhelmed the quarterback, the play-callers and the locker rooms.

One year is smart. More than that, history tells us, is stupid.

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