We are told that Terrell Owens wants to play professional football so badly, at age 44 and more than eight years after his last game, that he is willing to sign with a team in the Canadian Football League.
In hopes, of course, of setting the stage for a return to the National Football League.
“He wants to play in the NFL again,” said Jason Staroszik, the Edmonton-based player agent who is representing Owens in his CFL affairs. “He feels like he still has what it takes to play a couple years. But if the NFL isn’t an option for him, this is the next-best option and he is ready and willing to come play here. There’s no hemming and hawing about it. He wants to play pro football still.”
What we aren’t being told is why the CFL team currently holding his negotiation list rights is the Edmonton Eskimos. Because the idea of Owens playing for them makes even less sense than a 44-year-old man wanting to risk bodily injury in a brutal contact sport.
They put him on their 45-man negotiation list almost a month ago, but still haven’t made him a contract offer. In the case of a college kid, that’s hardly unusual, as they need time to develop their skills and suss out their pro prospects.
But the clock is ticking so loudly on Owens that you almost can’t hear him speak anymore. Almost.
“The guy is 44 years old … You put a guy like him on your neg list, it’s either because you want to sign him right now or you saw the same thing everybody else did and thought, ‘maybe another team is going to put him on their neg list, why don’t I try to be the first one to do it?’” said Staroszik, referring to a video of Owens running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and change on June 18. The Eskimos reportedly added Owens to their neg list a day later.
“That way I hold his rights and have trading options now,” Staroszik continued. “Those are two ways I look at it. I think maybe the second is the truer one of the two, just because there hasn’t been a contract offer made and they’ve had him on the neg list for how many weeks now.”
In this July 13, 2016 file photo, former NFL player Terrell Owens arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP
The silence was so deafening for so long that Staroszik called the CFL head office last week to trigger the 10-day window in which the Eskimos are required to either offer Owens a contract or remove him from their neg list. They can also trade his rights to another CFL team.
That window closes on July 24.
Staroszik still expects an offer from the Eskimos, but it’s far more likely to be the league minimum of $54,000 than anything that would attract Owens’ attention. The Eskimos would retain his neg list rights for a year and not have to negotiate further.
“I’m not expecting the offer they give me to be a serious one that they expect me to take to Terrell,” said Staroszik. “But if they do, then that will show they are serious and they want him here. It’s hard for me to see just because of the American receivers Edmonton has right now. I don’t see them being in the position of needing him. There are other teams around the league that could use an American receiver and could use a name like T.O. to put some butts in some seats, you know.”
Former CFL receiver Nik Lewis seems to think the CFL East is the more likely destination for Owens.
“I know for a fact that TO has had interest in playing in the CFL a few times before. I believe he invoked Edmonton to get off the neg list. I believe he wants to play on the east coast,” Lewis tweeted on Monday night.
The Eskimos have three of the league’s top four receivers in their room: Duke Williams, Derel Walker and Kenny Stafford. There’s also Vidal Hazelton and Bryant Mitchell to consider. Williams and Walker are totally secure at the top of the Eskimos’ pecking order, but if you bring in Owens, the rest of them ought to rightfully take that as a slap in the face. And that’s not a game worth playing if you’re GM Brock Sunderland.
The Eskimos wouldn’t make Sunderland available on Tuesday to talk about Owens.
“Our club policy is not to discuss players on our negotiation list,” Eskimo communications co-ordinator Cliff Fewings said in an email.
People are discussing Owens all over the league, and if you believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, that won’t bother you. And you might point to Johnny Manziel, who has been the good soldier in Hamilton, as proof that a previously outspoken NFLer can come up here and do the right thing in pursuit of another shot down south.
But Manziel is 25 and last played in the NFL in 2015, which makes him way more relevant. The fact that he hasn’t been able to unseat starter Jeremiah Masoli, and has been a complete pro about it, has been great for the CFL’s image. Owens is 44 and far less likely to stay patient, or quiet, for too long.