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Does Terrell Owens have any magic left?

8/7/2012

My first thought upon hearing the news that the Seattle Seahawks were even interested in 38-year-old free-agent wide receiver Terrell Owens was that it was a nice gesture with little downside to give him a tryout. Now that Owens and the Seahawks have actually agreed to a one-year contract, I wonder whether player or team is more desperate.

Let's start with Owens. He's obviously not young anymore, and while I've never played on a team with him and thus can't vouch for whether he's a good teammate or not, he obviously brings some off-field baggage. The last NFL team he played for was the 2010 Cincinnati Bengals, and to be fair, he wasn't bad statistically. Owens caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine scores. Of course, then he tore his left ACL, couldn't find an NFL team to sign him and had an interesting tenure with the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. I won't quote his stats there, if you don't mind.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver was the only player in the NFL older than 35 to catch more than 20 passes last season. Overall, 185 different players reached 20 receptions. Driver, in an elite offense with the best quarterback, managed 74 standard fantasy points (37 receptions, 6 TDs). Owens, meanwhile, is going to an offense far from elite. Who is Seattle's quarterback? Will the star running back be eligible for 16 games? What about the offensive line? Pardon my skepticism, but don't expect 72 receptions for 983 yards and nine touchdowns from Owens this season. Then again, what is his competition?

I seem to be higher than most on Seahawks free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn, coincidentally a teammate of Driver's the past few seasons, but I acknowledge he might get beaten out by Tarvaris Jackson as starter initially. I don't have Flynn among my top 20 quarterbacks. I don't have Jackson in my top 30. And the only Seahawks wide receiver among my top 40 at the position is Sidney Rice, coming in right at No. 40 and outside my top 100 overall.

As I noted earlier, the Seahawks might as well take the chance, because they probably have no idea if Rice can overcome multiple shoulder surgeries and concussion woes to play regularly, let alone produce at a top-notch level. Laugh at Owens if you like, but look at Rice; his last healthy, relevant season was back in 2009. It was awesome, but a year earlier than Owens' last bit of relevance.

In other words, it's certainly possible Owens earns a significant role among the Seahawks' wide receivers corps. There's no Steve Largent here. The team recently signed Braylon Edwards, but anyone that relied on him in fantasy in 2011, when he dealt with knee and shoulder problems while hauling in all of 15 passes for the San Francisco 49ers, should be skeptical at this point. I think any thoughts I had that young Doug Baldwin could break out are probably misplaced now, and surely Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu are a bit more buried now. Plus, it's not like Tom Brady is the starting quarterback, either. If Owens went to Denver to play with Peyton Manning, then I'd, well, I still wouldn't go all gaga here.

Owens is 38 and far from a sure thing. It's a no-risk deal for Seattle, especially considering the reasonable price tag. At some point, we'll see which receiving options rise above the rest in training camp and preseason games, but I can't see using a roster spot in a standard fantasy football league, 10 or 12 teams, on him. In fact, I can't say I'm interested in Rice, either. Running back Marshawn Lynch is slipping out of the second round in many drafts and brings his own set of issues, and I wonder if the Seahawks should concentrate on depth at his position instead of at wide receiver.

Ultimately, I'm left with this on Owens: No matter how fast he ran in the tryout for Seattle, he's a complicated person. It's hard to imagine this will be a perfect union, like Randy Moss in New England (for awhile, at least). It wouldn't shock me if Flynn wins the starting quarterback job and with Rice in and out of the lineup, Owens becomes the top receiving option, but no Seahawk player caught more than 51 passes last season or reached 800 receiving yards or five touchdowns, and I see no reason to adjust that thinking today. Like the Seahawks, there's little downside on choosing Owens very late in your draft, but it's awfully optimistic to expect things to work out well.