He came to the Philadelphia Eagles amid huge controversy, but was quickly embraced as the savior who could get the franchise over the NFC championship-game hump. Injury, followed by a miraculous return in time to produce one of the Super Bowl's classic heroic performances pushed Owens to near-deity status and he had the city of Philadelphia in the palm of his hand. But what started out as a typical contract dispute developed into a battle of wills, and by all appearances, the enigmatic receiver's days in The City of Brotherly Love are over as a member of the home team.
Monday afternoon, Eagles head coach Andy Reid announced in a statement to the press that WR Terrell Owens has been suspended four games for conduct detrimental to the team and will not be allowed to return to the team once the duration of his suspension is over. In effect, he is being put on ice for the rest of the season. He will not be paid during the four-game suspension, pending a grievance that most likely will be filed by Owens' camp. However, he will collect paychecks for the final five games of the season. But thanks to a clause in his contract, the Eagles could also elect to go after a significant percentage of the $2.3 million signing bonus he pocketed when he signed his contract in March of 2004.
All in all, Owens stands to lose $2.5 million in salary and bonus money... and that does not include the $7.5 million roster bonus he is due in March of 2006. So to break even, agent Drew Rosenhaus is going to have to negotiate a $10 million deal with another team. With Owens' history of biting the hand that feeds him, that's not likely to happen. If he hopes to ever recuperate the money he is leaving on the table, it most likely will have to come in some sort of incentive-laden deal with the signing team working protections into his contract so he can't repeat his tired act, and so they can easily dump him if/when he eventually self-destructs again.
Owens' downfall with the franchise he fought so hard to become a part of during the 2004 offseason began shortly after the Eagles loss in Super Bowl XXXIX when he signed with Roenhaus and made it known he was not happy with his contract situation despite the fact that he agreed to the seven-year, $49 million dollar deal just one year prior.
After a game of training-camp chicken in which the Eagles refused to blink, Owens reported to the team on time, but brought with him a gorilla-sized chip on his shoulder. As expected, the brewing battle between the All Pro wideout and the Eagles boiled over to the point that Owens was kicked out of training camp for one week. Even after his return, he made no secret of the fact that he was not a happy camper, so it's not surprising that the situation has deteriorated to the point that it has.
With the hero status Owens enjoyed shortly after his extraordinary Super Bowl performance, he could have easily capitalized on his popularity with numerous endorsement deals, which most likely would have offset any perceived deficiencies in his contract. Instead, he's thrown away nearly $10 million in contract money and untold dollars he could have made appearing in commercials. It's doubtful he will find a team willing to guarantee that type of coin, and the list of manufacturers looking to associate their products with Owens' bad-boy image is probably nonexistent at this point.
The NFL is all about wins and losses, so you can bet Owens will be on an NFL roster next summer. But you can also bet the next deal will be so restrictive that he won't be able to sneeze without first gaining permission from the club. And if he doesn't produce on the field, he won't make near the money he would have had he kept his mouth shut and played out the deal he agreed to just 20 months ago.