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Why T.O. continues to be a tough sell

WR talks character, but limitations in his game are the real issue. Matt Bowen

Print This June 07, 2010, 06:00 AM EST

Terrell Owens isn’t a high-profile free agent at this point in his career. The fact that he remains without a job in early June and has only seen real interest from the Bengals — prior to the club signing Antonio Bryant — might have T.O. waiting even longer. Perhaps until a team experiences a camp injury, a team’s WR corps isn’t producing in the preseason, etc.

Basically, Owens looks like a fallback plan for a club that needs a veteran who can run some routes and play for much less than the $6.5 million he received from Buffalo in ’09 — because T.O. is now a WR with limitations to his game.

In an appearance on the NFL Network’s NFL Total Access Friday night, the wideout was asked why he hasn’t found a team.

“I've heard a lot of the reasons why I'm not on a team right now. It's because people feel I've disrupted some teams, I'm a cancer — I've heard all those things,” he said. “They've said that for the last five, six years. The teams I've been on, if you ask in that locker room how I've been as a teammate and as a person, it's contradictory to what's been displayed out there.”

Owens is a hard worker, prepares like a pro and competes. Things you look for — and expect — from a veteran player who has lasted as long as T.O. has in his career.

But, going as far as labeling Owens a “cancer” as the reason for why he is still on the street is too easy. I’m not buying that.

Let’s look at his game — because any team can live with a WR who bitches when he doesn’t get the ball or has a routine of telling the QB to look for him down the field. That is all too common in the NFL when we talk about wide receivers.

Instead, we are looking at a wideout who struggles to get off of the line of scrimmage, has some burst (and big-play capability) left in his legs when he plays in the vertical game, but how much are you really going to get out of a player who will turn 37 during the season?

You want T.O. to run the comeback, the 9 route and the occasional 3-step slant vs. off-man coverage? That’s fine, but if you are a GM or a head coach who needs a WR, there has to be more than that. He struggles with press-coverage and he isn’t the type of receiver who you can move inside of the numbers and play him in the slot. That is not his game and what you are left with is an older player who isn’t going to win a lot of matchups against the top half of the NFL’s cornerbacks.

Sure, there was a time when he was a player that had to be accounted for in every meeting throughout the week, in the game plan and in your sideline adjustments on Sundays. As a half-field safety, when T.O. would get a clean release off of the line, your heart would stick in your throat — because you knew he had the ability to eat up your cushion and embarrass you down the field.

But, I just don’t see that anymore. Instead, I see a player who doesn’t require a safety to lean to his side of the field and in most cases, a player who can be handled with good technique from corners at the line of scrimmage. In reality, a player who doesn’t force opposing defenses to stay up late in their game day preparation.

That is a tough sell in free agency.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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