Can I get a T.O.?

A week ago, everyone anticipated that blue chip wideout Terrell Owens would void the final three years of his contract with San Francisco and test the free agent waters. Unfortunately for Owens and his agent, David Joseph, the league determined that the duo failed to file the paperwork before a mandated February 21 deadline, thus allowing the 49ers to retain his rights.

Owens is likely to file a grievance against the NFL management council some time soon. According to ESPN analyst Chris Mortenson, there is a possibility that the NFL will overturn the ruling before a hearing is held, allowing Owens to test the market, but for a price. The 49ers would be given some sort of compensation in the form of a draft pick if they let Owens walk. 

That draft pick could either be a compensatory pick rewarded by the league, or a team that is looking to sign Owens would have to part with one of its picks.

If the ruling is not overturned, Owens will likely lose his case, and remain with the 49ers.

However, there is no question that Owens will not remain on San Francisco's roster for too long. The 49ers will look to trade Owens or release him, because the team knows that the mercurial wideout will not agree to play for them in 2004 and beyond unless he's given a new contract (Owens has been angling for a bonus worth close to $20 million for the past year), which the 49ers seem reluctant to do. 

The question now becomes, how much compensation can the 49ers get for Owens, and which team is willing to take a chance on him?

Naturally, Baltimore's name has already been thrown around as a potential trade partner with San Francisco. There have been rumors floating around that the Ravens have already discussed a potential trade that would send a second-round pick and ILB Ed Hartwell to San Francisco in exchange for Owens.

Don't look for that trade to happen, though, as the Ravens would be severely overpaying to acquire the four-time Pro Bowl receiver.

At this point, it's hard to fathom why the Ravens or any other team would jump start trade talks with the 49ers before any sort of settlement is reached between Owens and the NFL.

Also, even if Owens loses his case, San Francisco will not gain as much in the way of a trade as people think they potentially could. Teams around the league understand that San Francisco wants to dump Owens' contract as soon as possible, given its dicey cap position. The 49ers may need to restructure a couple of contracts just to fit Owens' $6 million salary on its roster, and even if they manage to make enough room, the franchise may have a hard time making any signings in free agency. 

As such, teams like the Ravens, Eagles, Falcons and Jets can just make the 49ers sweat for as long as possible, until they cave to the pressure and accept whatever they can get in the way of trade.

After all, the 49ers simply want some sort of reimbursement for Owens, considering that it would have gotten nothing had Owens voided the final three years of his deal as expected.

Another caveat to this situation is that Terrell Owens wants a new contract from whatever team he plays for, and he will likely threaten to hold out if his deal is not renegotiated.

There is a chance that Owens may just be willing to play out the remainder of his deal if he is dealt to some other franchise, but it's doubtful that this scenario would occur. 

So, not only is a team like the Ravens looking at the possibility of giving up a fairly high draft choice to secure Owens' rights, but that team would also need to spend upwards of $12 million in guaranteed money on Owens' new deal.

For that reason, it's highly unlikely that any of the teams that are interested in acquiring Owens would start out by offering a high draft pick to the 49ers. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Owens is ultimately dealt for a third or fourth-round pick, instead of the first or second-round draft choice that San Francisco is probably dreaming about netting.

In the end, it's certainly a possibility that Baltimore could have Owens signed, sealed and delivered to their team within the next few months, but he will come here at a Ravens' price, not San Francisco's.

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