In 1996 a little known Wide Receiver from Tennessee- Chattanooga was selected in the 3rd round of the NFL entry draft by our San Francisco 49ers. Not many expected him to put up the following numbers in his 8 seasons with the 49ers; 592 receptions, 8572 yards and 81 TD. Terrell Owens ranks 2nd in the NFL all-time list in receiving yards and touchdowns, only behind Jerry Rice.
Now 7 years and four stops later, could his career come full circle in the form of a return to the 49ers?
I understand that this post may be met with criticism from certain 49er fans, as it should. Our relationship with Owens did not end too smoothly, to say the least. And, over the course of the years TO has represented what it worse about professional sports. With an ego the size of New York and mouth that puts Charlie Sheen to shame, Terrell Owens has not endured himself with too many NFL fans, let alone 49er fans. That said, he still is an extremely productive receiver and has calmed down in recent seasons. It may have taken Owens until the ripe age of 34 to mature to a point that many mid-20 year old men have. But, the has matured nonetheless. During this time Terrell has remained an incredibly productive receiver when given the chance. Listen, Owens would not come in here as a #1 WR that much is certain. He would come in as a nice complement to what we already have in the passing game. In fact, he would be the 3rd or 4th option in the 49ers passing attack behind Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis , and even possibly, Delanie Walker.
Has the 49er receiving corp been productive as of late? Not really. The 49ers entire receiving corp combined for 121 receptions in 2010. These numbers were nearly matched by Roddy White (115), and Reggie Wayne (112) alone. There is something to say that those two receivers had Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan throwing the ball to them, however, 49er receivers didn't do their QBs any favors. Despite playing in just 14 games for the Cincinnati Bengals, Terrell Owens would have led the 49ers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He still has plenty left in that Hummer like build.
The 49ers have a whole lot of holes to fill this off-season via free agency (CBA permitting) and the draft. Are we really ready for them to invest large sums of money for a top tier WR? I really don't think so. With the likes of Tamba Hali, Nnamdi Asomugha, Johnathan Joseph, Eric Wright, Antonio Cromartie, Logan Mankins, Davin Joseph, OJ Atogwe and Quintin Mikell all (potential) free agents, they 49ers need to look to fill holes with the money they will have to spend. What are the 49er options when it comes to acquiring receivers this off-season? Well, they have a lot of options, of course if they want to pay between 8-10 million per season over the course of five or six years. Vincent Jackson and Sidney Rice have character and injury concerns respectively and would cost 8-12 million per season. Steve Smith is also coming off an injury, but I really doubt that the Giants would let him walk. If so, we may want to look at him because of his consistency over the last three seasons. Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, and Santana Moss are really not options in my mind either.
If the 49ers are going to look the way of a mid-tier free agent Wide Receiver, there are a couple options. Mike-Sims Walker, Early Doucet and James Jones may be options. However, they would require multiple year commitments that I am not ready to give any of them. In Terrell Owens we get a proven commodity that has continued to be successful into his late 30s. I don't think it is reasonable to expect a dramatic drop-off from him in 2011. Owens has a drive second to none in the NFL, he has an off-season workout regimen that would make the most brutal drill instructor squirm. And, Owens has matured as a person a great deal over the last few seasons. I really believe that it would be a sort of vindication for both him and the 49ers if he were to return and end his career here. He would only cost about 4-5 million, and it would probably be a one year contract. I really do see this as a win-win situation for both sides.
So, let me break it down for you one last time. The 49er Wide Receivers were not productive last season and we need an upgrade. That upgrade cannot come from the top tier free agents available because we have so many other holes to fill. Terrell Owens has matured a great deal over the last three seasons and could actually have a good impact on Michael Crabtree. Owens would have led the 49ers in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2010 and would cost 5 million at the most. I really believe that it is a no-brainer that the 49ers go strongly after Terrell Owens in the off-season in order to complement Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore and Delanie Walker in the passing game. This would be a low risk, high reward type of contract for San Francisco and Owens is a weapon we desperately need on offense.
Terrell Owens 2010 Statistics: 14 Games, 72 Receptions, 983 Yards, 9 TD
Michael Crabtree (#1 49er WR): 16 Games, 55 Receptions, 741 Yards, 6 TD