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Surprise? Cowboys Release Terrell Owens
As insider Michael Smith first reported, the Dallas Cowboys have released wide receiver Terrell Owens. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News subsequently confirmed ESPN's initial report late Wednesday night.

The move brings to the end a controversial three year stay with the Cowboys for Owens and puts his NFL future in doubt.

Owens, 35, is coming off one of his least productive seasons in years, catching 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdown.

And as Star-Telegram staffer Clarence E. Hill Jr. reminded readers tonight, it was also one that was filled with controversy and internal strife because of his bad relationships with quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

According to FOXSports insider Jay Glazer, the transaction "seems to fit with the Cowboys' plan to have a more harmonious locker room for 2009."

The move was speculated throughout the offseason (you'll find a full review in our Feb. 15 Fantasy Notebook).

But on Feb. 17, owner and general manager Jerry Jones hinted that he was going to keep Owens on the roster.

During a press conference related to the opening of the team's new stadium, Jones went on and on emphasizing he hadn't decided whether to keep or cut Owens. Then, long after the subject was seemingly put to rest, Jones brought it up again -- with a pretty obvious hint that T.O. was staying.

"You and I both know that the one that you're asking about all the time, if I gave you the answer that you want to hear, then you would've already had it. So the fact you don't have it ought to tell you something. It really should," Jones told reporters at the time.

Jones again seemed to deny the team was discussing the possible release of Owens at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"That Stephen and I were debating about Terrell, that's just misinformation," Jones said regarding his son, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones at the time. "That's just not accurate. I don't know where that comes from. That's just total misinformation."

However, Jones reversed field Wednesday, informing Owens that he was no longer a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

According to Morning News staffer Calvin Watkins, Owens was told the team "had decided to go in a different direction."

Watkins added that "multiple sources" said Owens' potential exit had been under discussion for several days and the final decision to take this action wasn't made until Wednesday night.

Owens received a $12 million signing bonus just last year, included as part of a new four-year, $34 million deal. He will count $9.675 million in "dead money" next season but Dallas will lose only $680,000 in actual cap money by cutting him.

Owens' current cap charge is $8.995 million. The Cowboys also save $3.1 million in real dollars because they do not have to pay a roster bonus due June 1.

While Roy Williams is in line to become the team's No. 1 wideout, Owens' departure could be good news for Miles Austin, a 215-pounder with good speed who averaged 23.2 yards per catch and scored three touchdowns on his 13 catches last season.

If he can stay healthy and continue developing, there are those who believe he's capable of emerging as the starter opposite Williams on a post-Owens roster. The Morning News recently suggested Austin's big-play ability could be especially important if T.O. isn't around.

So there we have it. ... For now.

It's safe to say we'll be hearing much more about this story and Owens future in coming days. Get your popcorn ready!