It takes 20 minutes: Time might be right for Ravens to take Terrell Owens

February 28, 2010 | Drew Forrester

One year later, Terrell Owens is once again without a job and in need of a team.

He’s also in need of a championship ring.

This time last spring, the flashy-but-under-achieving wide receiver peddled his wares around the NFL before getting the ultimate kick in the family jewels — the only team willing to give him a chance was in Buffalo.

Talk about “how the mighty have fallen”.

Yesterday, the Bills did what just about every other team in Owens’ career has done.  They waved the white flag.  In true Roberto Duran spirit, the folks in Buffalo said “no mas”.

In Indy yesterday for the 2010 Player Combine, John Harbaugh offered the routine-like disclosure that the Ravens “are interested” in Owens.  In fairness, Harbaugh would say the Ravens were “interested” in the Son of Sam if, in fact, David Berkowitz lost 120 pounds and could run a 4.4 40-yard dash and catch the ball in traffic.

But Harbaugh’s “we’re interested” comment yesterday was much more telling than it appeared to the casual observer.  The Ravens are interested, a lot of people know that and, for the most part, the “cat is out of the bag”.  There was no sense in Harbaugh fibbing yesterday to cover up the team’s potential interest in Owens.  In fact, when Harbaugh slipped during his press conference and said, “we’ve watched a lot of film on him”, I quickly shot back with, “Why were you guys watching a lot of film on him?” and John responded with “You’ve cornered me.”

In past years, including last spring for sure, anytime I asked one of my Ravens sources about Owens and his possible acquisition, it was almost always met with “no interest” or “no thanks” or “we’ll pass”.

I can’t ever remember hearing “maybe” or “we’re thinking about it” or “we’re interested” when the issue of Owens came up.

Until now.

There are a lot of tentacles to the Terrell Owens situation in Baltimore and more of them lean in the direction of “good sense” than not.  For starters, the Ravens must finally give-in and admit they need help at the wide receiver position.  A season ago, the team added only veteran journeyman Kelley Washington and went to battle with a “B” receiving corps of Washington, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams and Derrick Mason.

This time last year, the Ravens stood pat and said, “Our wide receivers are good enough”.  I think we all saw enough of the 2009 season to say “well, they weren’t good enough”.

And it’s obvious that the Ravens are not willing to say that anymore, as evidenced by the signing of Donte’ Stallworth three weeks ago.  Even at 36, coming off a so-so year in Buffalo, and always being chased by the Diva Demons, Owens would be an asset in Baltimore.  Is he Anquan Boldin? Of course not.  Is he Brandon Marshall?  He isn’t.  But T.O. does have 1,006 catches in a 14-year career with 144 TD’s.  His numbers are very comparable to a bunch of Hall of Famers like Steve Largent, James Lofton, Raymond Berry and Paul Warfield.  He MIGHT sneak his way into Canton someday.  There’s quality there.  Even going into his 15th season, there’s still gas in the tank.

When the Ravens passed on first round wide receiver options in last spring’s draft like Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks and Percy Harvin, they set themselves up for this gaping hole they’re trying to plug.

The Michael Oher pick was a great one — this isn’t about debating whether or not they were right to go with him over the receivers — but when they went with Oher and passed on Britt and Nicks (both were available), they put themselves in the position of once again having to chase a bunch of pass catchers around in the spring of 2010.

That’s one of the reasons why Owens makes sense now, too.

Knowing what you now know about Oher, what’s a better two-year haul for the Ravens?  The combination of Oher and Owens?  Or Kenny Britt and Vladimir Ducasse (UMass), who will likely still be around when the Ravens have pick #25 in April.

That’s how the Ravens would look at it for sure.  “One year later, would we do it differently if we had to do it all over again?  Would we go with Britt or Nicks and then take an offensive tackle in 2010?”

The answer is “no”, they wouldn’t.

I know how over-the-moon they are with Oher.  Some in the building are saying he might be the team’s 4th best draft pick EVER after Ray Lewis, Jon Ogden and Ed Reed.  That’s pretty tall company.

So along comes the 2010 draft and while there are definitely going to be some quality receivers available at #25, I’m inclined to believe the Ravens will pass on the likes of Brandon LaFell and Arrellious Benn and go with a defensive pick in round #1 next month.

That bodes even better for Owens.

With receivers -particularly first rounders – being so iffy in recent years, the sound decision might be to give Owens a 1-year deal with some heavy incentives for year #2 if, in fact, he pans out in Baltimore.  There’s no need to back up the Brinks truck for T.O. – he’s done NOTHING over the last year to warrant that kind of contract…but in all fairness, his numbers over the last four years (including 43 TD catches) are likely better than the entire Ravens group of receivers in that same time span.

And if your knee-jerk reaction to Owens is “no thanks, he can’t stay healthy”, you might want to look again.  Take away the 2005 campaign when he missed 9 games after breaking his leg and you’ll be shocked at the other 13 seasons of his career.  How many games do you think T.O. missed in those 13 seasons?  If you said “only 11”, you’re a winner.

A man that misses 11 games in 13 seasons – at a high-contact position like WR – is not “injury prone”.

It should also be noted that plenty of folks will say, “if Buffalo doesn’t want you, what’s that say?”  I’m not defending Owens on this note, because it’s a fact, not a low blow, that he’s had four teams in the last seven years.  But let’s get serious for a second.  He wasn’t going to fix the Bills.  They stunk when he showed up and they stunk at the end of the season and even without him, they’re going to stink next year too.  So try not to blame Owens for the woes in upstate New York.  That’s a sorry franchise in Buffalo.

I’ve never been a T.O. fan, personally, because I think his history speaks for itself.  He’s always been productive, but his teams seem to fall short at the worst possible moment and, at some point, Owens always seems to be in the mix of some sort of debate that usually centers on whether or not he’s being treated fairly or being utilized the right way.

It’s always about him.  Always.  And any thought that heading off to the NFL’s wasteland otherwise known as Buffalo would somehow “straighten him out” proved false when the Bills gave him the boot yesterday.

But now entering the December of his career, Owens stands to go down as his position’s version of Dan Marino.  A guy with all the tools.  A player who was highly productive.  And someone without a championship ring.

In 14 years in the NFL, T.O. has never been a winner.

And facing the prospect of being discussed forever as “one of those guys who was great but never won anything”, I’d have to think Owens might look at Baltimore as a perfect ending to his career.  Yes, his reputation — that of a troublemaker or a diva — is notable and certainly gives any team reason to stop and say, “What are we getting ourselves into with this guy?”  But for the Ravens, right now, with guys like Lewis, Reed and Mason winding down, this could be the time to throw everything into the effort to win a championship before a rebuilding period begins sometime in the next year or two.

And that means, perhaps, taking a flyer on guys like Stallworth, Terrell Owens and any other player the Ravens might have previously written off because of supposed character flaws.

Let’s be honest for a second, with no disrespect intended to the Ravens here:  The way the team has BEEN doing it with their wide receivers over the last decade has been the WRONG way, it would appear.

Last year, Terrell Owens would have been on the “wrong way” list. Maybe now, he’s not “the wrong way”.

And while on the subject of winning championships and “doing it the right way” and “Play Like A Raven” and whatever other bumper-sticker cliches you want to throw out there, keep this in mind.  As great as Ray Lewis has been — he has ONE title to his name.  As great as Todd Heap has been, he has ZERO titles to his name.  As great as Ed Reed has been, he has ZERO titles too.  In other words, be careful protecting the locker room with warnings of “if we bring in so-and-so, he might wreck what we’ve built”.  News flash:  The Ravens haven’t won anything since January of 2001.  It might be a friendly, team-oriented locker room, but it’s also a title-less locker room over the last 10 years.  And that, too, isn’t a low blow — it’s just a fact.

Money, fame, girls, the spotlight, cars…Owens has so much of that in his lifetime vault he has to use two banks to keep it all safe and secure.

But he doesn’t have a ring.

Forget for a second whether T.O. makes sense for the Ravens.

The real question — do the Ravens make sense for him?

I say – at this stage – it makes sense for both parties.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have said that.

A year ago, the Ravens passed on him.

Ozzie Newsome’s famous saying — “right player, right price” — might have to be tweaked this spring.

Make it “right player, RIGHT TIME”.

The time might be right for T.O.

From everyone’s standpoint.