Thursday, March 5, 2009
Bring T.O. to Baltimore
By James Walker
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Baltimore Ravens linebacker and emotional leader Ray Lewis recently said he likes receiver Terrell Owens and would enjoy being his teammate with the Dallas Cowboys.
At the time, it was a recruiting tool for Lewis to generate interest from Dallas. But could it work in reverse with the Ravens?
Lewis has a lot of influence in Baltimore. He just received a lucrative three-year contract so he can retire as a Raven. Therefore, if Lewis vouches for the embattled Owens, who was released Wednesday night by the Cowboys, the Ravens' front office would at least take a long, hard listen to what their team captain has to say.
There are some selling points for Lewis.
- For one, the Ravens are in the title hunt. Teams that have taken on Owens do so with hopes that his immense talent gets the team over the hump. The Ravens were within one quarter of making it to the Super Bowl last season. Adding Owens would put Baltimore among the early AFC favorites in 2009. A short-term rental also would alleviate the risk.
- There is much better leadership in Baltimore, with Lewis being the catalyst. Lewis felt he could come into Dallas and straighten up a locker room full of rebels. Bringing in one rebel to a solid locker room situation is much easier. If Lewis is the person doing the sell job to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti, Lewis will have to provide assurances that he will be the one to keep Owens in line. Nothing against quarterbacks Tony Romo or Donovan McNabb, but if anyone can pull off what those two couldn't, it's Lewis.
- Now that we have all the locker room stuff out of the way, Owens happens to be one of the top receivers in football and a big-play threat the Ravens have been searching for. Ravens second-year quarterback Joe Flacco has a big arm and Baltimore is eager to show it off a lot more next season. The Ravens are looking for big-play threats in the draft, but one of the best playmaking receivers in NFL history could be falling right into their lap.
Of course the move wouldn't be all rosy. There are some thorns.
Owens would cost a lot of money, even if it's a short-term proposition. And Baltimore may not want to risk his antics of yelling and screaming for the football screwing up what is a blossoming talent in Flacco.
But this all goes back to Lewis. He would be Flacco's protector, in a sense, and Owens' mediator off the field and in the locker room. There was no personality strong enough to pull it off in Dallas and Philadelphia, and that's where things went wrong.
Call me crazy, but the positives outweigh the negatives. For the short term and the right price, I'm all for Owens joining the AFC North and playing football for the Ravens in 2009.
T.O. doesn't fit on most NFL teams, but he fits in Baltimore thanks to the "Ray Ray factor."
Would the brain trust at "The Castle" in Owings Mills agree? We will find out soon enough as bidding for Owens starts today.