Ravens add noise to quiet passing game

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens traded for All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens in a transaction that dramatically upgrades both the talent and decibel level of their passing game.<br>

Baltimore acquired the controversial, four-time Pro Bowl selection Thursday by trading its second-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers. The move is intended to address the lowest-ranked passing offense in the NFL last season. 

A 49ers football team that had grown tired of Owens' infamous end-zone antics and disruptive locker room behavior found a trading partner in dire need of a viable downfield target. 

Owens' agent missed a paperwork deadline to void the final three years of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent, and Baltimore capitalized.

"We saw an opportunity where we could improve our football team and we jumped on it," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said of Owens, who broke Tom Fears' single-game NFL record with 20 receptions four years ago against the Chicago Bears. "He's an elite player, a tough competitor who is a proven playmaker."

By trading the 51st overall draft choice, the Ravens outbid other suitors like the Philadelphia Eagles and will assume the remainder of a deal that carries $17.7 million in base salary for the next three seasons, including $5.3 million this season.

Owens will be introduced at a press conference once he takes and passes a physical. Newsome said that linebacker Ray Lewis played a role in recruiting Owens.

The Ravens have already opened negotiations with agent Dave Joseph for a contract extension. Owens would have likely commanded a lucrative new deal if he had been a free agent, raising questions about a potential contract squabble.

"I can't anticipate what they are going to do," Newsome said. "In this league, there are holdouts. All I'm hoping for is that the first game we play, he's playing one of those receiver positions. He's a Baltimore Raven now."

Over the last four seasons, Owens has averaged 92.5 receptions for 1,316 yards and 12.8 touchdowns. All combined, Baltimore receiving corps only produced 85 catches last season for 1,265 yards and nine touchdowns.

Last year, Owens feuded with quarterback Jeff Garcia and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp during a season abbreviated by a broken collarbone. He still caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine scores.

"The consistency of comments across the board about Terrell Owens in terms of productivity, consistent work ethic, his passion for the game, was probably one of the most impressive things to me," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "However he treated people or dealt with people before is not a concern to me because the Baltimore Ravens weren't a part of that. We conduct ourselves a certain way here. 

"I have no doubt in my mind that he will embrace that. I would not anticipate it being anything but a productive relationship that we are all going to enjoy."

The arrival of Owens could alleviate game pressure on NFL rushing leader Jamal Lewis, Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap and second-year quarterback Kyle Boller.

Owens and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison are the only receivers with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over the past four seasons. 

"I don't think anybody is going to look at this and say Terrell Owens is the only difference, but I think he's going to be a big part of what we do," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "A lot will still fall on Kyle's shoulders, but this may make things easier for him."

The Ravens expressed confidence that Owens will make a statement with his touchdowns. Not noisy complaints that became commonplace in San Francisco along with the "Sharpie" incident when he signed a football two years ago after a score in Seattle.

Owens once instigated a fight during a game by dancing on the Dallas Cowboys' star at midfield after a touchdown.

Owens chatted on his cellular phone on the sidelines during a game last year, leaving early because of an injury. He also criticized Garcia on his Web site (www.terrellowens.com) for his lack of arm strength and for an arrest for driving under the influence.

Away from football, Owens has steered clear of trouble and contributes heavily to charities. Inside the game, he has his share of detractors because of his actions and perception of an egocentric attitude.

"I think he's concerned about starting with a clean slate," Cavanaugh said. "I think going to a new organization will help him do that. I don't want to take the spontaneity away from him.

"I don't think he has to do anything planned or orchestrated, but if he scores a touchdown he ought to get excited."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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