Tonight's announcement by the Buffalo Bills that they would not offer Terrell Owens a contract could hardly be labeled a surprise. Even so, it qualifies as good news to me, news I wish to punctuate with a heartfelt "Good Riddance!" However, I am not naive enough to believe this alone will help the Bills, or that the new regime will turn things around at all quickly.
Make no mistake, I was never on board with the acquisition of Owens. I had serious issues with bringing him aboard, some concerning his well documented baggage. But most of my doubts had much more to do with what I saw as his declining abilities.
Going back to the previous year in Dallas, by the second half of the season defenses were no longer double covering him. He appeared to have lost a step, and at times appeared disinterested, not that this was anything new for him, despite playing for a contender.
What I saw with Buffalo did nothing to convince me otherwise. In fact, it demonstrated to me that most of my suspicions were correct, and that there was something else additionally.
Owens wasn't double covered much, if at all last year in Buffalo. He was definitely a step slower than before, appearing to be slower than the previous year in Dallas. Playing for a non-contender, his disinterest was clearly obvious at times. But an issue that has plagued Owens his entire career seemed to be more of a factor than before.
Owens has been a highly productive receiver throughout his career, even though he has never been noted for having good, or even average hands. Drops have always been a problem for Owens, but this year it was more prominent than at any time since his early years. He dropped a number of extremely catchable balls, some of which made the cardinal sin of hitting him in the hands.
At age 36, Owens could still be a decent No. 2 receiver for a team with a solid number one player at the position. But his days of being a dependable number one receiver are gone, and at this point of his career, the likelyhood of him equalling some of his best numbers seems remote.
Bearing everything in mind, Owens would seem on the surface to be better suited to playing with a contender who doesn't need to depend on him as a number one receiver. But what teams might fit in that category? Let's look at a few.
In the AFC, the viable contenders are probably New England, the Jets, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, San Diego and maybe Denver. I see two, possibly three of those teams potentially interested. Those teams would be Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Houston.
There are reasons Owens doesn't fit with the others. Salary or lack of need would seem to eliminate New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and San Diego. The Jets, while seeming to lack a solid number two receiver have Braylon Edwards. I can't see them going with two guys who don't catch the ball well. I don't see Josh McDaniels bringing Owens in after dealing with Brandon Marshall this year.
Cincinnati has Ochocinco as their top wideout, but Coles doesn't scare anyone on the other side. Caldwell has not yet shown he's capable of stepping up, so there is a need. The Bengals have shown a willingness to take on "problem guys" and the salary might not be a huge problem, plus Ochocinco has stated he'd love to have Owens with him. Could be a good match.
Baltimore presumably will still have Derrick Mason as their top wideout, and are in desperate need of someone opposite him. They have a stated interest, plus a strong leadership presence in the locker room. But I'm not sure Mason and Owens give them the speed to open things up deep. Still, it could be a solid duo, making for a possible match.
Houston already has Andre Johnson, one of the best receivers in the game. They have two guys in Jacoby Jones & Kevin Walter who have adequate deep speed but just aren't number two wideouts. Owens would be a good add here to open things up a little underneath, and the salary ought to be manageable. Seems a bit silly, but this could be his best match in the AFC.
There are fewer possibilities in the NFC for Owens. He's played on three teams there, all of whom I would list as possible contenders. But there's no way he goes back to any of them. That would leave Atlanta, New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota and Arizona, with Carolina not necessarily a contender, but a darkhorse for his services.
Lack of need would serve to eliminate New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota and Arizona. So that would leave Atlanta or Carolina. Does either one work?
Atlanta has Roddy White as their top wide receiver, will get Harry Douglas back from injury, and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez at tight end. Michael Jenkins has been mediocre and could be improved upon. But the Falcons most pressing needs are on the defensive side of the ball. While they could possibly use Owens, I see them concentrating the majority of their efforts on the defensive side of the ball. Doubtful match.
Carolina has one NFL quality wideout on the roster, Steve Smith, who has stated he would love some help on the other side. Owens would easily supplant Muhsin Muhammad as the number two receiver, and couldn't hurt the Panthers' attack offensively, especially if they do the right thing and switch to Matt Moore as the starting quarterback.
One problem: Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson is a stickler for good character guys, and may view Owens as not his cup of tea, not to mention the impending loss of Julius Peppers may make the Panthers prioritize defense as their top need. Still, this could be a possible match.
So, there are some possible suitors for Owens services. It will be interesting to see if any of these teams, or one yet to be identified steps up to obtain Owens' services.