Does T.O. have value as a free agent?

Tuesday, we talked about the Vikings’ Chester Taylor — a player who could be the hottest name once free agency opens. Today, I want to talk about Terrell Owens, who is also set to become a free agent on March 5.

But how much and what type of value does a player like Owens — who will turn 37 next season — have this offseason?

Owens led the Buffalo Bills in receiving last season with 55 receptions for 829 yards and 5 TDs, despite playing with a musical chairs rotation at QB. Yes, there’s still production there, but even T.O. has to be honest that his skills no longer demand a No. 1 role on a team, or even a No. 2, depending on where he ends up.

In the past, opposing defenses would have to game plan for T.O. Often, we would see teams play a form of Cover 2 to his side of the field (where a corner could get a jam on Owens and slow him down to protect the deep safety over the top), or various forms of 2-Man.

But that’s changed. Owens struggles to get off the jam, he doesn’t have the separation speed once he gets onto a safety’s cushion, and outside of the 3-step game (hitch, smash, slant, out), he isn’t as much of a threat to the top NFL secondaries.

However, he’s still T.O., and there will still be teams interested in his services.

The one-year deal he got in Buffalo last year for $6-plus million? Not going to happen in 2010. He will most likely sign another one-year deal because teams will be unwilling to give him up front money that puts him on the books for more than one season.

Talking yesterday to league sources, the same numbers continued to come up. Look for Owens to sign a one-year deal in the $2.5-million to $3.5-million range with incentives built in that could push the deal close to the $5-million range.

Is that a deal you think your team is willing to offer? I still see Owens as a receiver who can get behind the lower half of the league’s corners and could still be viewed as a strong red zone option.

Let’s look at five options for Owens in 2010:

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Laveranues Coles is nothing more than a possession wideout at this point in his career, and the more you read about the Matt Jones deal, the more you scratch your head. Chad Ochocinco needs another playmaker opposite him, one that draws attention. Ocho is too easy to take away right now with the wide receivers they have in Cincy. Not a bad call with the running game of Cedric Benson to lean on.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Let’s face it, the Bucs are desperate at WR, and with Antonio Bryant set to test the free-agent market, they need to at least give Owens a look. The last thing this club wants to do is to head into the season with a wide receiving corps thrown together over the summer for QB Josh Freeman. The more weapons you give him, the more he will develop in 2010. But will Tampa be active in free agency?

3. Detroit Lions

Maybe this is a stretch for Jim Schwartz, but with Matthew Stafford at QB, why not at least take a look at Owens? Calvin Johnson is the vertical threat for this offense, but outside of him, there are no other playmakers in this scheme, and Bryant Johnson isn’t the answer at No. 2. Yes, the Lions want to build for the future, but another awful season like ’09 and it could be time to start over again. Owens gives them more of a chance to compete in the NFC North.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

I would think the combo of Todd Haley and Charlie Weis would intrigue Owens. It’s a young team, but with the money this club invested in QB Matt Cassel, it needs to add more weapons. The Chiefs already have Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers, but with Weis’ system, there will be three wideouts on the field the majority of the time. Owens would catch a ton of balls in this scheme, and that will make him happy.

5. New York Giants

Really? Sure, if T.O. is willing to play a No. 3 role behind Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks. Think of the Giants when they go to their Zebra personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB). He could be a factor on third downs, and he could provide QB Eli Manning with a weapon inside the 20-yard line. Only question: will that satisfy Owens?

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