Harbaugh, Ravens interested in T.O.

February 27, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

INDIANAPOLIS — It's not a secret that the Ravens are desperate to upgrade their wide receivers this off-season. But are they desperate enough to consider pursuing a 36-year-old Terrell Owens?

It depends on whether you think Ravens coach John Harbaugh was speaking candidly or bluffing a bit during his question-and-answer session with reporters Saturday at the NFL Combine.

Owens is an unrestricted free agent coming off a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills where he made $6.5 million. He caught 55 passes for 829 yards last year -- his lowest totals for a full season since 1999 -- but some of that can be attributed to the Bills poor play at quarterback. Owens has said he'd like to play at least a few more years, and he thanked the fans in Buffalo for their support on his Twitter account Saturday night, saying he enjoyed his time there. The Bills announced Saturday that they are not offering Owens a contract, according to an Associated Press report.

Harbaugh was asked whether Baltimore was interested in signing the mercurial wide receiver -- whom the team attempted to trade for in 2004 -- and the coach admitted he and his staff have watched film of Owens' time in Buffalo.

"He had a good year last year," Harbaugh said. "We watched him on tape, and he was very effective."

But would the Ravens really entertain the idea of signing him?

"We're interested in T.O. We're interested in all the guys that can make our team better," Harbaugh said. "I think he's a good guy and a good player."

Harbaugh was the Eagles special teams coach when Owens was in Philadelphia for two seasons, although their interaction was mainly limited to Owens role on the "hands team" on kickoffs. Although Owens feuded with quarterback Donovan McNabb and defensive lineman Hugh Douglas, and was suspended and then deactivated by the Eagles for criticizing McNabb and the organization in a interview, Harbaugh said he and Owens never had an issue.

"We had a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "He was respectful to the coaches and worked hard, and I think everybody had a pretty good relationship with him." The comments caused a minor stir in the press room, simply because Owens tends to generate headlines and controversy wherever he goes.

The organization already has a complicated relationship with Owens, dating back to 2004. That year, the Ravens tried to trade for Owens when he was with the San Francisco 49ers, offering them a second round pick. The two franchises agreed to a deal, but Owens refused to report to Baltimore -- in part because there was some dispute over whether the 49ers retained his rights after his agent missed a deadline to file paperwork that would make Owens eligible for free agency.

Before an NFL arbitrator could rule on a grievance filed by Owens and the NFL Players Association , the three teams worked out a deal where the 49ers sent a draft pick and a player to the Eagles and the Ravens had their second round pick returned. Owens later took a shot at general manager Ozzie Newsome in his autobiography, claiming he didn't want to play in Baltimore because Newsome had told Owens' agent, "Sometimes a black man has to be slapped."

Newsome has repeatedly declined to comment on the book.

"I've always said I've got a lot of respect for T.O., and I know Ozzie does too," Harbaugh said.

It may have simply been a case of Harbaugh repeating his mantra that the team is open to all possibilities this off-season. In general, the Ravens generally don't comment on the players they're truly interested in pursuing in free agency. They're also limited in whom they can sign by the collective bargaining agreement because they were one of the final eight teams remaining in the NFL playoffs. In order to sign Owens, they would have to lose a free agent whose contract value was similar to what they would sign him for.

Harbaugh did say that the team was talking with receiver Derrick Mason, who has recently expressed a desire to return if the Ravens are willing to offer him a two-year contract. Mason said after the 2009 season he was mulling retirement.

"I think both sides are really interested in bringing back Derrick," Harbaugh said. "Derrick, obviously, has let it be known what he's interested, but that's a good place to start. We're interested in Derrick for more than one year. No doubt, he can still play. He's 36 years old, but he's not physically. As long as he can play, we want him to be a Raven. We're pretty confident that we'll be able to get something done. I know Ozzie [Newsome] is working on that right now."

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