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."