The 49ers should absolutely consider bringing Owens back
While everyone remembers the messy breakup the 49ers and Owens went through in 2004, but at this point, both parties need to swallow their pride and admit that they need each other. It’s unsure what Owens, at 38, has left. He may not be able to blow by defensive backs like he once did, and he doesn’t command attention from defenses the way he did 10 years ago, but one cannot question the man’s work ethic.
That, more than anything else, is what’s needed for the young 49ers receiving core. Michael Crabtree has bee labled as a diva since he came into the league and hasn’t shown the work ethic necessary to elevate him to elite receiver status. This may be due to the fact that he was given his spot as soon as he was drafted, with no legitimate threat to take it from him (i.e. Mark Sanchez). With all due respect, Crabtree was never going to fall behind Joe Hastings or Brett Swain on the depth chart.
The 49ers probably won’t have a shot at one of the top three wide receivers in the upcoming draft—Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright or Michael Floyd—which means they’ll grab one of the second-tier wide receiver prospects—Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Criner, Dwight Jones or Stephen Hill.
This will provide some depth, but the team also needs impact players now, and it would be in their best interest to capitalize on the success of last year, and Alex Smith’s growing confidence, by investing in a low-risk, high-reward player in Owens to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract.
Owens is in a different place in his life and career. He may have been able to get away with the antics he put forth in Philadelphia and Dallas because he was one of the most feared, productive wide receivers of the last decade. But father time, and a destitute bank account, have humbled the once arrogant, brash superstar.
Much like Allen Iverson and the NBA, Owens is desperate to hold on to a league that doesn’t seem to want him. If given the chance, Owens wouldn’t be able to act out the way he once did. He couldn’t afford to. Harbaugh wouldn’t let him.
The 49ers are building something special. They finally have Smith in a position where he can succeed, and given the slightest indication that Owens might mess with that, the organization would not hesitate to cast him out once again. It would certainly be a polarizing move among 49ers fans and players, but history tells us, that team will always take chances on talented, yet troubled players.
If there is any chance the 49ers can extract any meaningful production from Owens, they would be foolish not to at least consider it, and if you’re Owens, you thank God that such a possibility may exist and you take care not to blow it.