The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

T.O. to the Ravens?

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So the Terrell Owens chapter in Dallas is over. The Cowboys released the productive yet petulant wide receiver after a season of failed expectations and locker-room tumult. A team forecasted to play in the Super Bowl missed the playoffs with a monumental late-season collapse, and now the TO haters are rejoicing.

A handful of AFC teams should be trying to get him signed right away. Those teams are one impact wide receiver from becoming viable Super Bowl contenders. The Ravens are an especially nice fit. Owens flirted with signing with Baltimore early in his career, but the offense was so remedial then that he elected to go to Philadelphia. Now the timing is just right.

Baltimore has a young quarterback in Joe Flacco who excels at throwing the deep pass. They have a run-first mentality that would benefit greatly from a game-changer on the outside who could keep that extra safety away from the line of scrimmage.

Most important, the Ravens have Ray Lewis. Who better to keep Owens in line?
Both Lewis and Owens are in the twilight of their careers and are poised for one more run at the Super Bowl. Another Super Bowl title would cement Lewis's status as the best linebacker of his generation. Owens, meantime, needs a Super Bowl ring to ensure enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

If not Baltimore, then Tennessee may be the next best place for Owens to finish his career. The Titans desperately need a game-breaking wide receiver, and Justin Gage, Brandon Jones and Justin McCareins never emerged.

Want to know the frail condition of Tennessee's passing game this past season? Bo Scaife, not exactly a household name, led the team with 58 receptions and was second in receiving yards.

Despite losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the Titans still have a formidable defense and one of the best coaches in the league in Jeff Fisher. They re-signed Kerry Collins and have one of the most potent running back tandems in Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Owens could be the missing player who gets Tennessee back to the Super Bowl. And having played his college ball at UT-Chattanooga, Owens is comfortable receiving in the Volunteer State.

Jacksonville is another possibility. Remember two years ago the Jaguars were a Super Bowl contender but lost to New England in the conference semifinals. This past season the Jaguars fell to 5-11 after receding production from veteran tailback Fred Taylor and a defense that uncharacteristically wilted.

The Jaguars can be an AFC power again with Owens. Jacksonville has not had a difference-maker at wide receiver since Jimmy Smith was in his prime 10 years ago. To refresh your memory, the Jaguars went to the AFC championship game in 1999 behind Smith's 1,636 receiving yards and 116 receptions.

Owens would make David Garrard a better quarterback and give tailback Maurice Jones-Drew more running room. With the Jaguars so limited in their passing attack, defenses last season keyed on stopping Taylor and Jones-Drew, thus blunting the offense's efficacy. Owens would provide instant help in that regard.

In the end, Owens may find a blessing in his release from the Dallas Cowboys. With Baltimore, Tennessee or Jacksonville, he'll have a chance to play for a coach with conviction, who actually holds his players accountable for poor performance. He'll be on a team with a defense that's passionate about preventing the big play, rather than hoping an opponent doesn't hit it.

There was plenty of blame to go around in Dallas this season, and Owens certainly warranted his share. But don't put it all in his lap. The real culprit was the coach, who finished one game above .500 with a team that sent a dozen players to the Pro Bowl one season earlier.

For the incessant talk of Owens's diminished skills, consider he finished with 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, including three games with Brad Johnson as his starting quarterback. That's hardly a fair fight. Talk about statistics that ought to have an asterisk next to them.

Owens has had 1,000 yards in nine of his past 11 seasons and double figure touchdowns in eight of those seasons. No wide receiver had more touchdowns over the past three seasons (38) than he did. Few football players are in better physical condition than Owens, even if he is 35. And we know Owens, unlike many of his peers, probably won't be on TMZ for domestic violence, driving under the influence, firearms violations or any other knucklehead off-field transgression (other than doing calisthenics in his driveway).

Yes, Owens can be a distraction, but the NFL is about production and winning. Owens has been in the playoffs at each of his three stops. San Francisco hasn't been back to the postseason or had a winning record since Owens left, and Philadelphia hasn't been to the Super Bowl since cutting him. Don't forget in Super Bowl XXXIX, Owens had nine catches for 122 yards while playing with a steel plate and screws in his ankle.

Dallas will be trying to extricate itself from a similar predicament over the next few seasons. With Owens, the Cowboys had a team ready to make a deep playoff push. Without him, they are just another pretender.

By Gene Wang  |  March 5, 2009; 1:49 PM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Gene Wang Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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arena football...I think T.O. would be a dynamite arena football receiver.

Posted by: sachmo1 | March 6, 2009 8:39 AM

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