- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Terrell Owens’ whole career has been one of bad timing. He was drafted by the 49ers, quintuple conquerors of the NFL, two years after they stopped winning titles. His first five seasons were spent in the shadow of the Greatest Receiver Ever, Jerry Rice. His agent dashed his free agency dreams last winter by missing the filing deadline. And now he’s trying to force the Eagles to give him a new contract … in a year they’re holding 13 draft picks, five in the first three rounds.

T.O. complained last week that he agreed to a below-market deal with Philadelphia because he didn’t have any leverage — still being, technically, the property of the Niners. But, hey, I’m not sure how much more leverage he has now.

Granted, he’s coming off another terrific season (77 catches, 1,200 yards, 14 touchdowns), one that saw the Eagles reach the Super Bowl, but his team is in a position, thanks to all the picks it has stockpiled, to go after just about any receiver it wants in the draft.

Wouldn’t that be a scream? The Eagles resist Owens’ attempt to renegotiate, then trade up in the first round to select Mike Williams, Braylon Edwards or Mark Clayton. If T.O.’s new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, decides to play Texas Hold ‘Em (Out), Andy Reid just goes to Plan B — and throws 77 passes to the rookie. (The only way it could be better is if one of the young wideouts, when he sits down to sign a contract with Philly, pulls a Sharpie out of his sock.)

Then again, the Eagles could always wait until the later rounds and draft a real sleeper, Jose Canseco. Yes, Jose Canseco. In his just-released autobiography, Jose claims that, late in his career with the Devil Rays, he ran a 40-yard dash in 3.9 seconds. Heck, that’s faster than Darrell Green in his prime.

(Asked about the 3.9 during an appearance at the University of Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “Canseco turned to the page and was flummoxed. ‘It’s a typo,’ he said.”)

What’s with these receivers anyway? They’re all so high maintenance. Before Owens started stamping his feet in Philly, you may recall, Laveranues “The Toe” Coles whined his way out of Washington. Coles’ problem with the Redskins was more philosophical than financial, but he did manage to renegotiate his contract after he was returned — in the same box he came in, probably — to the Jets.

Coles was only willing to stick it out in D.C. for two years, $13 million signing bonus or no, and now Owens, who got a mere $8.5 million to sign, wants the pot sweetened after just 15 games. Next to these two arrested-development types, Keyshawn Johnson seems practically mature. Keyshawn is at the end of a long deal and will have a base salary of just $1.5 million this season, but he’s keeping quiet for now.

“I am content where I am because I see the big picture,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “And I don’t operate like that with Bill [Parcells], not with him. We have a friendship and relationship that works.”

The only relationship Owens has that works, it would seem, is with himself. He promised the Eagles when he accepted their seven-year, $46 million offer that he wouldn’t cause trouble, then went out and, almost at the first opportunity, did exactly that. Before he cut short his campaign for a new contract — one that included a tearful stop on some show called “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch” — he even disparaged his quarterback, Donovan McNabb. Said he wimped out in the Super Bowl, though not in so many words.

Again, it’s all about timing with T.O. — bad timing. He hasn’t built up enough capital in Philadelphia, either with the fans or the club, to be going back on deals after just one season. Especially when he was standing on the sideline recovering from a broken leg while the Eagles were bashing the Vikings and Falcons in the playoffs. He’s a fine player, to be sure, one of the best wideouts of his generation, but something less than indispensable.

Not that anyone should feel sorry for his employers. The Eagles knew what they were getting when they made the trade, knew Owens should have been transported from San Francisco to Philadelphia in a HAZMAT truck. Their hope was that they could win a Super Bowl before he spontaneously combusted … and they might yet. But if he insists on making a mess of things — again — they have the cap room and the draft choices to minimize the damage.

All they have to do is pick up the phone and dial the Dolphins. New coach Nick Saban is said to be willing to deal the No. 2 pick, and there are other likely trade partners in the top half of the first round, too. That’s Miami, guys. Area code 954.

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