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Friday, March 5, 2004
Eagles say they had deal for TO first

ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles thought they had Terrell Owens for themselves.

According to phillyBurbs.com, the Web site for a chain of three suburban Philadelphia newspapers, the Eagles agreed to a deal in principle to acquire the superstar receiver Thursday, only to have the 49ers turn the tables by sealing a deal with the Ravens instead.

Owens and agent David Joseph were furious, according to the Web site, which serves the Calkins Newspapers chain. Joseph told league officials Thursday night he plans to file a grievance against the 49ers, and union chief Gene Upshaw is reportedly already involved in the process.

Two league insiders familiar with the negotiations, and speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Philly reporters Thursday night that the Eagles actually finalized a trade with the 49ers and hammered out a long-term, multi-million dollar contract with Owens.

The deal would have sent Owens to Philadelphia for a fifth-round pick and a player, possibly receiver James Thrash, according to the report.

"Terrell was ecstatic," an NFL agent familiar with the details of the negotiations, told the Web site. "Philly is where he wanted to go all along. He was under the impression he was an Eagle. It was a done deal."

But before the paperwork was signed, according to the Web site, 49ers general manager Terry Donahue quietly accepted the Ravens' offer of a second-round pick in this year's draft and filed trade papers without informing Joseph or Eagles negotiator Joe Banner, or giving them a chance to match the offer.

The Eagles, according to the Web site, did not learn the 49ers had shipped Owens to the Ravens until a team employee saw an ESPN report on Thursday afternoon. And Joseph didn't know about the trade until he got a phone call from the Eagles moments later.

Owens does not have a contract negotiated with the Ravens, who are simply paying him according to the final three years of his original deal with the 49ers that Joseph was unable to void. Joseph missed the deadline that would have made Owens a free agent.

The current deal pays Owens $5.3 million in 2004, $5.9 million in 2005 and $6.5 million in 2006 with no signing bonus. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said the team has been negotiating for an extension on the contract.

One of the sources told the Web site the Eagles' offer included a signing bonus over $10 million and an average salary of over $6 million per year.

All along, the 49ers believed Owens would end up in Baltimore. During the Ravens playoff drive, several 49ers front office people kept calling the Ravens, telling them that they thought Baltimore would be the logical choice. Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis also played a role in urging Owens to come to Baltimore, trying to recruit him at this year's Pro Bowl.

The newspapers contributing to phillyBurbs.com are the Bucks County Courier Times (Levittown) and The Intelligencer (Doylestown) in Pennsylvania and the Burlington County Times (Willingboro) in New Jersey.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.