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Fantasy Notebook: T.O.'s Future; T.J. Tag Free & More
Another Sunday, another Fantasy Notebook. ... As mentioned last weekend, with the free-agent signing period getting underway on Feb. 27, I'll be using the weekly Notebook to set up (and follow up on) some issues likely to be of interest to Fantasy owners once the festivities begin. Today's installment continues that effort.

We'll get the ball rolling this week in Dallas, where the big question is this: Will Terrell Owens be a Cowboy during the '09 season?

ESPN's Ed Werder first reported the Cowboys would consider cutting the veteran receiver shortly after last season ended. Not surprisingly the topic continues to generate considerable buzz -- at least in part because Owens had his worst season since 1999 in a year when he wasn't suspended.

While posting his third straight 1,000-yard season with the Cowboys in 2008, he had only two games with more than 100 yards. His 69 catches were the fewest he's had in a full season since 2000, when he earned his first of six Pro Bowl berths.

Owens had six games with three or fewer catches in 2008 after having nine games with three or fewer in his first 31 regular-season games with the Cowboys.

But even if team officials (and by team officials I mean owner/general manager Jerry Jones) decide their issues aren't all Owens-related, they still need to figure out whether the mercurial wideout can be a solution or if he'll become an increasing problem as the Cowboys look to end a 13-year stretch without a playoff win.

Remember, locker room chemistry remains a question mark even though Owens denied Werder's December report that he was jealous of tight end Jason Witten's relationship with Tony Romo. And while he hasn't been alone in this regard, Owens has led the way in terms of questioning offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's offense (Romo did the same after the 44-6 loss to Philadelphia and Roy Williams most recently joined the ranks).

"I think we all know that chemistry is the problem with this team more than the schemes or anything else," an unnamed Cowboys source told Werder as the season wound down. "Are we going to continue to allow talent to outweigh everything else in the decisions we make with players and putting the roster together? We're like the Redskins used to be when they signed every player they wanted. There's more to it than talent. It has to be more about the team."

"The big one [Owens] didn't get discussed yet, but I'm sure it will and real hard."

And while Dan Reeves has been vague about the contract snag that resulted in his recent decision to decline a coaching/advisory role with the Cowboys, he couldn't have been clearer when it came to the ongoing debate raging at team headquarters about whether T.O. should stay or go.

"I don't think you ever talk to the Cowboys without Terrell Owens coming up," Reeves said in a radio interview last week. "I can say there are definitely some mixed feelings about T.O. Most everybody you talk to has a different opinion of him.

"They definitely have a decision to make as far as to what they will do about T.O., and I really don't know what that will be."

Reeves' comments lend further credence to Werder's initial report, which cited at least two sources who claimed that vice president Stephen Jones hoped to convince father Jerry that Owens is a liability the team would be better off without.

When Fort Worth Star-Telegram staffer Clarence E. Hill Jr. asked Stephen Jones about his role in the looming Owens' decision last week, Jones said "no comment."

As Hill suggested, the younger Jones should be savvy enough to know that a "no comment" often gives one the assumption the question at hand is true and the person doesn't want to talk about it.

Hill added: "If it wasn't true the person would simply say so."

But Jerry Jones just last year invested a $12 million signing bonus in Owens (as part of a four-year, $36 million contract), which means there would be salary-cap fallout.

Should the Cowboys cut Owens, he would count $680,000 more against the '09 cap than the $8.99 million he is scheduled to count if he stays. And because this is the last capped season, the Cowboys cannot spread out the hit over two seasons like teams were able to do previously.

This June, Owens is due a $3.1 million roster bonus, so the Cowboys do not have to be in a rush to make a move.

So, as Dallas Morning News staffer Tim MacMahon suggested, here's a question Jerry Jones ought to ask himself: Can T.O. be a productive member of the Cowboys now that there's on-the-record confirmation that there are people in the organization who want to get rid of him?

His detractors can argue their belief that that Owens, 35, is a poor route runner with inconsistent hands and generally a descending player who seldom accepts responsibility for his own shortcomings. There is fear internally that he will become more volatile if his performance continues to deteriorate -- and that he may feel more empowered if he perceives that his presence forced Garrett to depart.

Of particular concern is the apparent negative influence Owens has had on teammates such as Williams and Patrick Crayton and even running back Marion Barber.

"You have to be worried about his influence over there, and I think we'd get some of those players back over to our side if he was gone," a source told Werder. "I think we have to decide how detrimental he is to Witten and Romo."

The elder Jones at least appears to be giving that angle of the situation serious thought.

According to Yahoo! Sports columnist Jason Cole, the owner has had several players visit his home in recent days trying to see if the Owens situation can be worked out internally.

There are other aspects worth pointing out.

At least one report suggested that Garrett might have given Jones' a "me or him" ultimatum -- with the "him" being Owens -- early in the process. That threat clearly doesn't have the teeth it might have had when Garrett was a head coaching candidate last month.

Still, it was Jones who personally returned Garrett to the organization with the expectation the he would eventually become the next head coach of the franchise. When Garrett was offered head-coaching positions with the Ravens and Falcons a year ago, Jones persuaded him to remain with the Cowboys by making him the highest-paid assistant coach in football.

And as Werder reminded readers, Jones was fiercely determined to have Garrett develop Romo, maintain offensive continuity and even mentioned his view of the team's future with Garrett as head coach in the new $1 billion stadium, which the team opens next season.

If nothing else, Owens' willingness to toss Garrett under the bus at the least provocation (real or imagined) is something Jones will have to take into account.

So what's it going to be?

Opinion among those in the know seems to be taking a noticeable direction.

Appearing on "Total Access" in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIII, NFL Network insider Adam Schefter and FOXSports' Jay Glazer both predicted Owens will not be a Cowboy in 2009.

Others have climbed on the bandwagon this past week.

In his Feb. 9 MMQB column, coffee-worshipping insider Peter King wrote: "I think everyone doing free-agent lists should add one name in pencil: Terrell Owens. I'll bet you a month's worth of lattes he'll be free in six weeks."

In an item appearing in his National Football Post blog, former NFL exec (and current Showtime and NFL Network contributor) Mike Lombardi took things a step further.

"I believe [King] is dead-on accurate," Lombardi wrote. "When, not if, is the real question everyone is asking about T.O. He will not be back, but the team is still deciding when to make the announcement of his termination or trade.

Maybe, Lombardi further suggested, Jones can work a trade out to send Owens to the Raiders since they have a huge need at wideout and have never been afraid to take on a big challenge.

Asked about such a move during a live chat with Raiders fans on Tuesday, Contra Costa Times beat writer Steve Corkran replied: "Of course it's a possibility. ... Terrell Owens has Raider written all over him, and Al Davis is the kind of owner who would allow Owens to be the person he is as long as he produces in games."

That's true. I'm just not sure that Owens, who has struggled to get along with more skilled passers, would be on board with working alongside JaMarcus Russell.

As for the more immediate future?

I see a publicity-greedy owner with a new stadium and (especially given the debt that comes with it) an intense desire to keep his team's name in the headlines to help sell tickets. And Owens, who recently teamed up with VH1 for his own reality television show which is scheduled to premiere this July, is more than capable of attracting coverage.

Because the Owens' bonus isn't due until June (and because William wasn't able to establish himself as a legitimate threat down the stretch last season), I tend to agree with Yahoo! correspondent Charles Robinson, who wrote: "That's plenty of time for Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips to mend fences, and come to realize that the offense is still at its best with Owens on the roster. ...

"Dallas will look at the books and realize that with only $10 million in salary cap space, cutting Owens would actually cost them $680,000, which is a double negative -- removing a talented (albeit corrosive) player, and costing the franchise additional cap room that could provide it a little extra depth. ..."

As always with T.O., popcorn is not optional. Get yours ready. ...

One last note on this one. ... Pro Football Weekly advised readers last month that if the team were to cut Owens, it might present an interesting option of using more two-TE sets with Witten and the emerging Martellus Bennett and also of finding ways to get Felix Jones on the field in more of a receiving role. ...

In Cincinnati. ... The big question for the Bengals also involves a wide receiver. As Dayton Daily News staff writer Carlos Holmes noted on Thursday, team officials are facing some tough decisions, but none tougher than deciding what to do with the team's most effective offensive weapon, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is set to hit the open market.

Their choices are limited.

They can sign him to a long-term deal before the signing period begins; they can place their franchise tag on him to make it more difficult for potential suitors to snag him; or they can lose him.

So far, the Bengals haven't applied broken out their franchise tag and the conventional wisdom continues to suggest they won't.

Houshmandzadeh hopes that remains the case.

"I don't think they will because it won't be the best thing for the team," he said last week. "But if they do it, they would probably wait until the last day."

The last day teams can designate their free agents is two weeks from Thursday on Feb. 19, eight days before free agency begins. If the Bengals were to franchise Houshmandzadeh, they would have to tender him a one-year deal for $9.88 million, the average salary of the NFL's top five paid wide receivers.

Obviously, Houshmandzadeh doesn't want to be franchised because it would restrict his mobility because interested teams would have to give Cincinnati two first-round picks if the Bengals didn't match their offer.

During a phone interview with Holmes on Tuesday night, the veteran wideout reiterated his desire to avoid being tagged -- and his belief that wish will come true.

"I don't want any part of the tag," he told Holmes. "The more I think about, I don't think I'll be franchised. It's a lot of money. If you franchise somebody what are you saying about the player? Obviously, you think he is that type of player, and if you think he's that type of player then you're franchising him.

"That shows you within itself that OK we think he's one of the better players and we're going to franchise him. If that's the case give him a contract like your franchising him. That's how I see it and don't see the franchise thing happening."

Houshmandzadeh also made it clear what would take place if he is designated the team's franchise player.

"[Head coach Marvin] Lewis made an emphasis of wanting guys at the offseason programs, on the field sessions and things of that nature. If I get franchised I'm not going to be there," he said.

"So it goes against everything that the coaches want. You can't have the coach come out and say one thing and do another. If you do, then you're not going to have the cohesiveness he said he wanted when the season ended."

Houshmandzadeh stated that some of the blame for the Bengals dismal 2008 season was placed on him and Chad Ocho Cinco by the coach for their lack of participation in voluntary offseason programs. He reiterated that things weren't going to change this offseason if he receives the tag.

For what it's worth, Houshmandzadeh is currently working out in California preparing for next season (he was joined by teammate Chris Henry on Thursday).

It should be noted that Houshmandzadeh hasn't ruled out a return to Cincinnati.

"It would be cool to remain with the Bengals because I got my start there," Houshmandzadeh told Holmes. "I'm not a person that prefers lots of change in my life, but if change has to happen, then change has to happen.

"When things like this are ongoing then obviously there are going to be some difference of opinions on your ability. That's the big thing and whatever happens, happens."

As far as talks of a new contract, everything remains status quo.

However, Houshmandzadeh did have a conversation with Bengals chief negotiator Troy Blackburn nearly two weeks ago, who expressed interest in possibly re-signing the receiver. Yet there has been no contact between the Bengals organization and Houshmandzadeh's agent, Kennard McGuire.

But as Holmes reminded readers, the Bengals are notorious for dragging their feet in contract negotiations. With Houshmandzadeh certain to be a hot commodity once the signing period begins, however, that might not be a wise approach.

There will certainly be no shortage of suitors -- many of whom Houshmandzadeh has already begun to lobby.

He made news in Philadelphia on Feb. 4 by saying on an ESPN radio affiliate that he'd like to play for the Eagles. According to's Don Banks, Houshmandzadeh also wouldn't dismiss the idea of becoming a Bear when talking to a Chicago sports chat show.

The Seahawks are expected to target Houshmandzadeh early in free agency and another NFC West team, San Francisco, has emerged as a potential suitor as well.

Banks added that Miami and Tennessee are two more obvious receiver-starved teams with sufficient cap room to afford Houshmandzadeh.

Seattle and San Francisco could be appealing because Houshmandzadeh is a self-described West Coast guy.

As staffer Geoff Hobson suggested, the only thing in Philadelphia that comes close to California is the Eagles West Coast offense that Houshmandzadeh admires.

Still, Houshmandzadeh is eager to prove his worth in a different role.

He admitted last week that he feels like he can show more of his wares in another system. Houshmandzadeh has never hid his opinion that he feels he's been "pigeon-holed" as a possession receiver and doesn't think the Bengals have thrown the ball enough to him down the field.

"Obviously they think of me as one type of player," Houshmandzadeh said, "and I think I'm a different type of player. If I leave Cincinnati, everybody will see what I'm talking about."

Based on the overall facts here -- not to mention the history of the team involved -- I suspect we'll all get to see just that this fall. And I'll further suggest the irony of such a outcome would be rather delicious.

As Banks summed up: "A year after Ocho Cinco tried to talk his way out of Cincinnati, it looks like it's T.J. who's leaving and Ocho Cinco probably staying. Gotta love it. ..."

In Philadelphia. ... Donovan McNabb's much-anticipated sitdown with the Eagles' brass is going to happen soon. Philadelphia Daily News staffer Les Bowen reports it almost certainly will take place before the NFL Scouting Combine kicks off Feb. 18 in Indianapolis.

And as Cole so aptly put it, McNabb wants "a financial apology."

After being benched briefly in November and then coming back to lead the Eagles to a the NFC Championship game, McNabb and agent Fletcher Smith want Philadelphia to come through with a financial commitment to him.

McNabb, 32, has two years remaining on his contract, which complicates things for Philadelphia.

Cole went on to predict that if there's no meeting of the minds, McNabb is likely to skip the team's off-season program.

Moving McNabb would free up more than $9 million in cap space, but it's not like the Eagles need it. They are already about $25 million under the cap, and could keep all their free agents and still have a healthy bankroll to operate in free agency.

Giving McNabb a new deal -- which sources close to the situation have told Bowen the team is prepared to discuss -- would also have a positive impact on the Eagles' 2009 salary cap (it would open up more room, by amortizing guaranteed money over several seasons).

The team doesn't need to reach agreement with McNabb by Feb. 27, but they probably want to have some sense of whether he is going to count close to $10 million against the cap or if that figure will be less.

And as Bowen summed up, if the Eagles don't like what McNabb has in mind, they can just tell him he's under contract and that's that. If he wants to assure his role as the starter, all he needs to do is outplay Kevin Kolb in training camp and perform consistently well once the season starts. ...

In Tampa Bay. ... According to's Pat Yasinskas, it appears the Buccaneers may already have their quarterback of the future.

Luke McCown, who would have become an unrestricted free agent, was re-signed on Monday. With the new regime of head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik taking over, Yasinskas believes this could be a sign that the Bucs are going to give McCown a shot at the starting job.

That's something former coach Jon Gruden never did with McCown (or any young quarterback); indeed, Gruden's failure to develop a long-term plan was part of the reason he was fired in January.

McCown reportedly received a $2.5 million signing bonus and a $2.5 million base salary for 2009. His base salary in 2010 is $2.5 million, but there are incentives that could take the deal to $7 million a year based on playing time.

Regardless of whether he plays or doesn't play, the $5 million commitment the Bucs made to McCown, who has only four career starts, shows they are making some changes in the quarterback position.

McCown, 27, doesn't have as much mileage as guys who started for Gruden in recent years like Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese and Brad Johnson. He's appeared in only five games since joining the NFL in 2004 but many personnel people around the league believe he has upside.

Gruden surprised many (and perhaps sealed his own fate) by jumping No. 3 Griese into the lineup when Garcia had a late-season injury even though McCown had taken most of the practice snaps as Garcia's backup. The Bucs lost their final four games and finished out of the playoffs.

Garcia's future in Tampa Bay now appears very shaky. He took the news of McCown's signing as an indication he is probably out as the team's quarterback.

In a text message to Tampa Tribune beat writer Roy Cummings after learning of the deal, Garcia said the Bucs' new regime has not reached out to him or shown any interest in bringing him back for the 2009 season.

"It looks like they have decided to go in another direction with the signing of Luke," Garcia said. "I'm happy for him and his family. He has worked hard and is a talented player."

Garcia, who led the Bucs to the playoffs two years ago and was their starter in six of their nine victories last season, is slated to become a free agent at the end of the month.

Dominik told reporters the Bucs are still talking with the agents for all the players slated to become unrestricted free agents but Garcia doesn't seem confident about a return.

"We'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks but it seems very unlikely that I will get an offer," said Garcia, who will turn 39 before the signing period begins.

If Garcia does look for a new team, the Cowboys might be interested in him as a backup to Romo. The Jets, in the wake of Brett Favre's latest retirement, also need veteran help at the position.

According to Yasinskas, the Bucs are expected to add at least one more quarterback to their roster before training camp begins, but for now they have Griese, second-year pro Josh Johnson and McCown. ...

Meanwhile, McCown's new deal could have an impact on another of the team's free agents: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant.

According to Cummings, re-signing Bryant was probably the No. 1 goal of the early portion of the offseason for the Bucs because they don't want to face the danger of losing the talented wideout to another team.

The only way to do that is to sign him to a new contract before the start of free agency on Feb. 27.

They would like to get a deal done without having to break out their franchise tag because much like it would with Houshmandzadeh in Cincinnati, the situation could get ugly if they do.

But Cummings believes that team officials might not have a choice in the matter if they feel they won't get a deal done before the start of the signing period.

The two sides have been talking for weeks now and Bryant seemed confident of where the talks were headed last month.

So how does McCown's deal figure in?

St. Petersburg Times beat writer Stephen Holder recalled that while walking out of Raymond James Stadium with Bryant after the season-ending loss to the Raiders, the one thing he expressed indignation about was the number of times he was wide open down the field without the ball being delivered.

Whether it was a swipe at Garcia is not the point, though it's impossible to ignore that Garcia's primary weakness has been hitting downfield targets.

Holder went on to suggest that one thing Bryant knows for sure is that McCown, who has the strongest arm on the roster, can get the ball down the field. ...

In a few related notes. ... Receiver Michael Clayton, once adamant about leaving the Bucs, seems a lot more interested in returning now that Morris and Dominik are in charge.

Clayton says he still plans to test the free agent market but it sounds as if the Bucs will get the best chance to re-sign him.

"I feel great about the direction of the Bucs and would love to be a part of things there," Clayton said. "I hope it all works out."

Some observers believe Clayton's immediate future under Morris would be brighter than teammate Joey Galloway's.

Not only is he 37-years old, but Tribune staffer Anwar S. Richardson recently reminded readers that Galloway was Gruden's favorite player (at least until last season).

Galloway did not practice much during previous training camps and rarely participated in practices throughout the week because Gruden liked him so much. Morris, however, will need to establish his presence early, and Richardson points out that easiest way for coaches to show players who is in charge is by cleaning house.

There is no way players will take Morris seriously if he shows favoritism in his first season.

So it will be interesting to see how Morris deals with the players going forward. In past seasons, the young assistant was extremely tight with many of his players, to the point of going out onto the social scene with some of them away from the facility.

Now Yahoo's Robinson suggests, as a head coach, he'll have to draw a line in that part of his relationships, lest he risk being seen as a peer rather than a coach. . ...

One last note in Tampa. ... Cummings reported last week that one of the league's piping hot rumors has Edgerrin James coming to Tampa. The rumor was started by an ESPN analyst who suggested Tampa would be a good landing spot for James, who would give the Bucs added depth as well as someone to push Earnest Graham a bit.'s Mike Florio reports that James had agent Drew Rosenhaus reiterate his request to be released by the Cardinals last week. With a $5 million salary and a $6.75 million cap number for 2009, he could get his wish.

That being the case, he's also reportedly told friends he'd like to play in Florida if at all possible. ...

In some other Rosenhaus-related issues. ... Plaxico Burress apparently wants to leave the Giants. Rosenhaus, the agent for the troubled receiver, sent an e-mail to NFL teams earlier this week letting them know that Burress was one of his three clients who wants to be traded.

Newark Star-Ledger staffer Mike Garafolo first reported on Wednesday that Rosenhaus' initial e-mail to the teams said that Burress could be acquired through a trade.

However, an NFL executive who asked not to be identified because he had to deal with Rosenhaus, told the Associated Press the initial e-mail said that the agent had three "players DESIRING a trade."

The other two players are Anquan Boldin and Ocho Cinco.

Even though his tactics are within the rules, some still argue that Rosenhaus' e-mail was an attempt to promote tampering -- with the Giants being chief among them. ...

Meanwhile, Phoenix-area radio station XTRA's Mike Jurecki, told listeners early in the week that Boldin instructed Rosenhaus to tell the Cards he would not sign any new contract (the Cards are expected to still make a new proposal) and that he wants to be traded.

As pointed out in last week's Notebook, Boldin is under contract for two more years, so if he declines to sign any new deal, the Cards could just hang on to him and not trade him.

Although the Arizona Republic believes the Cardinals will consider dealing him heading into April's draft, Florio advised readers this week the scuttlebutt from folks familiar with the organization's thinking is that even though they might be willing to come up with a deal that better reflects his current market value, the team will not budge on Boldin's renewed request to be traded.

Because the Cardinals hold his rights for two more seasons, they can keep him around for 2009 and then consider trading him in 2010, the final year of his contract.

Florio believes there's still a chance that the Cardinals will squat on Boldin for the next two seasons, slap him with the franchise tag in February 2011, and trade him thereafter.

Though Boldin might not like any of it, he can do nothing to force his way out of the situation. For now, his only recourse will be to disappear for the entirety of the offseason which, as staffer Darren Urban pointed out, isn't a great deal for either side with a new offensive coordinator coming in. Stay tuned. ...

And finally this week, from our "This Thing Might Take Even Longer To Turn Around Than We Thought" file. ... Former Lion Roy Williams was seen in Metro Detroit last weekend -- on the cover of a calendar.

But it wasn't a Cowboys calendar; it was a Lions calendar -- a 2009 Lions calendar.

Mike O'Hara, former Lions beat reporter for the Detroit News, saw the out-of-place picture while shopping and wrote about it on his Web site,

Wrote O'Hara: "As the Lions moved along to their historic 0-16 season, Roy told people that he felt like part of his old team's record. And now, he's part of the 2009 team. For the Lions, the future is last year. ..."

That's it for this week's Notebook. I'll check in again next Sunday. ... In the meantime, keep an eye on the News & Views section of this site for late-breaking news and other tidbits of interest. Watch the Headline News section for more in-depth reviews of current events -- including the Fantasy Notebook.