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Fantasy Notebook: Owens Uncertain Future; Bucs' QBs & More
As insider Len Pasquarelli first reported Monday, the odds of a deal are slim given the circumstances, but the Eagles have granted agent Drew Rosenhaus verbal permission to speak to other franchises about the possibility of acquiring estranged wide receiver Terrell Owens in a trade.

Rosenhaus has been able to orchestrate trades under difficult circumstances in the past -- most notably the deal that sent running back Clinton Portis from Denver to Washington for cornerback Champ Bailey before the 2004 season. He was also the driving force behind the one that sent running back Reuben Droughns from Denver to Cleveland for defensive linemen Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers before this season.

Still, finding a franchise willing to surrender even a low-round draft choice for Owens might be expecting too much. It's no secret the Eagles will release him before the March 1 deadline if Rosenhaus fails to find a suitable trading partner.

Certainly, with what transpired during this season, Owens cannot return to the Eagles and teams interested in him will use that knowledge to their advantage.

The 10-year veteran was suspended twice last season, once during summer training camp for a week, then at midseason. He appeared in a career-low seven games and caught 47 passes for 763 yards and six touchdowns.

According to Philadelphia Inquirer staffer Bob Brookover, the Eagles ability to get something in return for Owens will depend on a couple of things. The primary one is the level of interest teams such as the Bucs and Jets have in the controversial wideout.

Owens has five seasons remaining on the seven-year, $49 million contract he signed with Philadelphia after the Eagles acquired him in a three-team trade in 2004. In March he is due two roster bonuses totaling $7.5 million -- one a payment of $5 million on March 5 and a second payment of $2.5 million later in the month.

Any team interested would either have to assume the contract he negotiated with the Eagles or attempt to work out a new deal with the receiver. In addition to the bonuses, he is due a base salary of $770,000 next season.

Brookover suggested that Owens and Rosenhaus might be more than willing to accept a trade if they don't think they can get more than the $8.27 million the receiver is due in 2006.

It has previously been thought that Owens might have to sign a short-term deal with a modest signing bonus that is loaded with incentives, but his undeniable talent could lure some teams to overlook the disruptive behavior that caused so much turbulence in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

And what about those who might be interested?

Brookover pointed out that Tampa Bay, which was shut down by the Redskins during its wild-card playoff loss, would have an explosive receiving tandem with the addition of Owens. Speedster Joey Galloway led the Bucs with a career-high 1,287 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, but Tampa Bay still finished 25th in the league in passing yards.

The Jets, meanwhile, ranked 28th in passing, although much of their problem revolved around the fact that they did not have a suitable replacement once starting quarterback Chad Pennington went down.

Miami and Denver have also been mentioned as possible destinations.

For the record, reports that Gruden blew off ESPN's report -- a report based on Brookover's speculation -- regarding the Bucs' interest in Owens by citing the NFL's tampering rules.

"I don't watch ESPN, and for good reason," said Gruden. "[Owens] is under contract, and it's tampering to even discuss his situation. I wouldn't even go there and try to respond."

While he wouldn't comment on Owens specifically, Gruden's response when asked if a man boasting the veteran receiver's unique skills and ability would be the type of player the Bucs need to target during the offseason was rather interesting.

"What kind of player is that?" asked Gruden. "We like explosive players, yes. I think anybody that stood up here would say, 'give me three of those.' You like explosive players; you need explosive players to win championships. I'm not using [Owens] as any kind of example. You need explosive running backs, like Carnell Williams.

"You need juice. You have to have playmaking, and you have to have lively-legged people to do it."

If I'm not mistaken, that qualifies as a "non-denial denial. ..."

Meanwhile, there was considerably less ambiguity regarding Owens elsewhere. ... As Miami Herald staffer Barry Jackson suggested on Tuesday, a Chris Chambers/Owens combo at receiver might seem tantalizing to local fans.

Chambers, however, is chief among those opposed to it.

Chambers believes adding Owens would be a bad idea and hurt chemistry. "If you have another star receiver, it would cause more controversy," he explained. "Marty Booker is an excellent receiver. ... We have Randy McMichael. We already have the pieces here. I don't see a reason to go get a big-time receiver."

Jason Taylor previously said he opposes adding Owens. Fellow D-lineman Vonnie Holliday agreed: "You look at our receiver corps -- there's nothing wrong with it. Chris Chambers is a Pro Bowler, and Marty Booker could be."

According to South Florida Sun-Sentinel staffer Harvey Fialkov, McMichael was also adamant about avoiding T.O.

During a radio interview on Wednesday, the tight end passionately voiced his opinion against adding the outspoken five-time Pro Bowler to his tight-knit team.

"I don't need a guy like T.O. in the locker room," McMichael said. "I don't need that virus like that. The guy destroyed two locker rooms already and it's only a matter of time before it happens again.

"The guy's a great football player and I'm sure he's a great person, but I just don't want him to mess up everything we built down here."

Jackson also reminded readers, before bringing back Ricky Williams, head coach Nick Saban consulted team leaders, who were supportive. If Saban does the same with Owens, he will undoubtedly encounter some resistance. ...

In a semi-related note. ... According to Pro Football Weekly, Saban said he is open to any deal that would improve his team, and Williams may have put himself back on the radar screens of some RB-needy teams after gaining 280 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the last two weeks of the regular season.

Williams, who is signed for the veteran's minimum the next two seasons, impressed many around the league with his play as the season wore on, and the Dolphins believe his market value has increased. PFW added a first-day pick might be too enticing for Miami to pass up.

However, it still remains to be seen what Williams' trade value is, with questions lingering about whether he wants to play beyond his current deal and with teams aware of the fact that he's one missed or failed drug test away from a year's suspension.

Still, the rumors have started. ...

In an article published Friday, Denver Post beat reporter Bill Williamson advised readers that in addition to the T.O. speculation, Williams has also been linked to the Broncos.

Will it happen? According to Williamson, the Broncos are likely to add to their running arsenal in the offseason, but it most likely will be through the draft. Williams would fit Denver's running back mold, but the team probably wouldn't trade for a veteran.

The Broncos feel comfortable in producing their own backs. Plus, Williamson believes the Dolphins likely would want a conditional first-round pick for Williams. That would be too steep for Denver. If the price tag is a mid-round pick, it would make more sense for Denver because he has a reasonable contract. ...

Getting back to Tampa Bay. ... St. Petersburg Times staffer Rick Stroud reported on Tuesday that Gruden wants Chris Simms and Brian Griese back next season.

But he is not prepared to commit to either as the starter.

Simms becomes a restricted free agent in March, meaning the Bucs will have the right to match any offer he receives from another team or demand compensation. Griese is recovering from knee surgery, but the Bucs have to decide in a few months whether to pay him a $2.6-million roster bonus.

"We've got a guy in Brian Griese who broke a Buccaneer franchise record for passing efficiency (in 2004). ... He was 5-1 when he got hurt," the coach said on Monday. "He's a good player, a very good player. And Chris Simms, 5-1 in the division, is an up-and-coming guy. We will analyze it carefully and try to keep those guys here."

Simms certainly made his case as the Bucs' quarterback of the future after completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,035 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. After taking over for Griese, he rebounded from shaky performances in losses to the 49ers and Panthers to help the Bucs finish 11-5 and capture the NFC South title.

In fact, Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder reported on Friday that preliminary conversations are under way with Simms' agent regarding a long-term deal for the soon-to-be restricted free agent.

If the Bucs and Simms can agree on an extension now, the team can prevent him from hitting the open market where he might draw an offer that is difficult to match.

As for Griese, Gruden said he had not spoken to the 30-year-old veteran about his future.

"We just finished the season 48 hours ago. I'm sure he knows how I feel about him, and I think he respects what he can do in this type of offense," Gruden said.

Simms told Stroud he wouldn't mind battling Griese in training camp for the starting role.

"No, I wouldn't have that problem," Simms, 25, said. "I mean, if there's one thing I'm used to in my college and pro career, it's being in that situation. So I'm definitely not intimidated by that. Whatever they decide to do is good with me."

Simms' performance, especially his comeback bid that fell short against the Redskins after Edell Shepherd dropped a pass in the end zone, has attracted the attention of several teams, including the Lions, Jets and Dolphins, according to ESPN.

If the Bucs part with Griese, they will have six-year veteran Tim Rattay and third-year pro Luke McCown backing up Simms.

Other Fantasy-specific items from around the NFL. ...

In Jacksonville. ... Florida Times-Union columnist Mike Freeman didn't pull any punches when he wrote on Thursday: "What's the difference between Reggie Williams and Ricky Williams? One is a weirdo who was caught with marijuana, the other is a running back. ..."

Sadly enough, the drug possession charges filed against Williams on Monday probably put the Jaguars in a tighter spot than their young receiver.

As Times-Union beat man Vito Stellino noted Friday, Williams doesn't have to deal with major legal problems because he only faces misdemeanor charges of possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. The actual amount was only 8.1 grams.

But he does face league sanctions that could have a major impact on his career and even drive him out of the game if he doesn't avoid future drug use.

All of which means the Jaguars will have to debate their offseason moves without knowing whether they need insurance at the position or will have their receiving corps back intact.

They also have to decide if Williams will make more of an impact than he did in his disappointing first two seasons.

Stellino went on to remind readers that complicating the situation is the fact Jimmy Smith, their No.1 receiver, is already in Stage Three of the program after being suspended for the first four games of the 2003 season.

Players in Stage Three are tested for the rest of their careers and face a one-year suspension if they fail another test.

Smith apparently entered the program after testing positive for cocaine after a traffic stop in Jacksonville in 2001.

If Williams goes into the program, two of their top four receivers -- Williams and Smith -- will be in the program.

Head coach Jack Del Rio hasn't commented since Williams was arrested, but in evaluating his receivers in his season-ending news conference on Monday, he said they, as a group, were guilty of too many drops.

"We have to catch the ball more consistently than we did this year. Without going back and reviewing the season, I can make that statement. We do need to catch it better."

But he said he still likes his wide receivers.

"I think we have a good group of young skill people that are going to get better working together over time. We will look to opportunities to add to that group and make it competitive," he said.

Del Rio said it was a "safe bet" the Jaguars wouldn't take a wide receiver in the first round in April after selecting Williams and Jones on the first round the past two seasons.

It's worth noting that Williams was considered a gamble when the Jaguars selected him with the ninth pick in the 2004 draft because he lacks the blazing speed that most franchise receivers have. Also, at age 20, he was the youngest player they have drafted.

He caught just 27 passes in his rookie year and 35 this year when he lost the starting job to Ernest Wilford after suffering a concussion. He didn't have a touchdown catch this year and had just one in his rookie season.

He's been noted more for his dancing and garish wardrobe than his catches on the field. His teammates nicknamed him "Can't Get Right" for an offbeat character in the 1998 Eddie Murphy movie, "Life."

Stellino also reminded readers that he did so much dancing on routine plays against San Francisco last month -- even for making a block on a 1-yard Fred Taylor run -- that the Fox television network, which was broadcasting the game, showed a montage of his moves.

"He's dancing to a soundtrack that only he can hear," Fox analyst JC Pearson said.

Williams said, "That's just my enthusiasm for the game."

Del Rio said, "That's not really the time to celebrate," but has consistently supported Williams.

Del Rio said of Williams in a Dec. 14 news conference, "He's playing the game with passion. He loves to compete. We just want to help him mature; help him understand what it is to be a pro. Things don't happen overnight."

Of course, there are those who wonder if Del Rio is tough enough with his young talent.

In a column published Friday, insider Pete Prisco noted that in addition to Williams getting popped this week, several players hit the town hard last week in Providence the night before their playoff game with the New England Patriots.

The word is a limo was involved and players had a big time, pushing the curfew envelope.

Prisco added: "There is talent on this team, but it might be going to waste if the want to win isn't strong enough to keep players in their rooms the night before the team's first playoff game since 1999.

"Del Rio is pushing for a contract extension -- which he should get -- but these latest instances of off-field problems can't be making owner Wayne Weaver too happy. ..."

In a semi-related note. ... Prisco also warned readers not to be shocked to see Fred Taylor playing somewhere else next season. This coaching staff has never warmed to Taylor and there is talk of friction stemming from Taylor's injury troubles.

They don't think he's tough enough.

Prisco went on to suggest: "If Taylor were let go, the perfect landing spot for him would be Indianapolis. The Colts probably won't bring back Edgerrin James and Taylor would be a cheaper alternative. Taylor would go to his first Pro Bowl if he wound up playing in that wide-open Colts offense. ..."

In New York. ... Plaxico Burress was a no-show in the Giants' playoff loss on Sunday, then was a no-show for the team's final meeting on Monday. Considering the reputation he brought with him from Pittsburgh, no one was surprised.

But according to New York Daily News sports writer Ralph Vacchiano, GM Ernie Accorsi doesn't see a problem looming with his enigmatic receiver. And he believes Tom Coughlin can handle any problem that does arise.

"I like Plaxico," Accorsi said. "He made a lot of big plays for us. What Tom has to do, I support Tom completely on keeping order in the team's locker room."

Burress, 27, put up big numbers in his first season with the Giants, catching 76 passes for 1,214 yards and seven touchdowns. But he faded badly down the stretch with just 16 catches in the last six games, including none in the 23-0 loss to Carolina. And his frustration was clear throughout the game with the way he'd flail his arms when he and Eli Manning didn't connect.

Vacchiano noted that frustration was also evident off the field during the last month.

In late December, Burress was critical of the Giants' play-calling for not taking enough shots downfield in the passing game. And when he was asked about Manning's ability to throw those deep passes, he said, "I don't want to really get into that" rather than offering the young quarterback his support.

There was also a report that he refused to join the rest of his teammates in a postgame huddle in the locker room after the Giants' loss in Washington on Christmas Eve. And in September, he was benched for the first quarter of the loss in San Diego after being late for two meetings that week.

Coughlin was not asked about Burress' problems during his season-ending press conference on Monday. However, during his weekly spot on WFAN that day, he was asked about Burress needing "an attitude adjustment."

Coughlin responded by saying, "We're addressing some of those things. ..."

Meanwhile, critics have been complaining for weeks that despite Tiki Barber's incredible month of December (742 rushing yards on 135 carries in five games), the Giants threw the ball too much this season.

Indeed, while they ranked among the 10 best rushing teams in the regular season, the Giants threw the ball the highest percentage of the time (.555).

The numbers show how often they go to the air, but the fact that struggled for most of the final month of the regular season indicates that the team has a lot of confidence in its quarterback and that the offensive coaches felt as if throwing more often, especially early in games, would get him into a better rhythm.

Of course, Manning could have used more help from Burress and Jeremy Shockey, whose late-season fade became more understandable after it was revealed he suffered a fractured sternum, not a bruised one, in the Nov. 13 game against Minnesota.

Wrapped and medicated, Shockey played the rest of the season. According to the Sports Xchange, he'll most likely need surgery to properly repair the injury.

In Minnesota. ... According to St. Paul Pioneer Press staff writer Don Seeholzer, new head coach Brad Childress had a 45-minute phone conversation Friday morning with quarterback Daunte Culpepper and is looking forward to working with him on the football field.

But as Minneapolis Star Tribune staffer Kevin Seifert noted, Childress described the talk in neutral terms, saying "I probably wouldn't characterize it as good or bad," and acknowledged he does not know if Culpepper will be ready to open the season as the Vikings' starting quarterback.

"I've been told that he's got a chance to be capable of maybe doing some footwork type of things in some of the mini-camps," Childress said. "We're talking about the footwork -- just the things that are inherent to his position. It's kind of a one-day-at-a-time thing. He may move ahead, and he may have a setback. It's hard to know without a crystal ball. Different guys heal differently."

Culpepper tore three ligaments in his right knee in the Vikings' Oct. 30 loss at Carolina and is just a couple of months into rehabilitation that could take a year or longer.

Childress would not set a time when the quarterback must demonstrate he is healthy in order to come in as the starter.

"First of all, there's a protocol for those injuries," Childress said. "With that said, all of them are different. Even though a guy feels great, that doesn't mean structurally he can do what he thinks he feels like he can do. I'm going to make sure we take care of that.

"When you're getting toward the back end of that thing -- nine months, 10 months, 11 months -- then you're going to try to get some feel for all those football-type things."

Childress said there are similarities and differences between his West Coast offense and the offenses Culpepper has played in with the Vikings and at Central Florida. But he said there also is no substitute for running it in person on the practice field.

"Usually, elite-caliber athletes have the ability to adjust," Childress said. "There's a certain amount of athleticism that's got to go into it and, obviously, a certain amount of knowledge. Now with that said, nothing's going to hold him back book-wise. He didn't have a brain injury. He had a knee injury. So he should be right up to speed."

Culpepper has spent the majority of his rehabilitation in Florida. Childress said newly hired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might go there periodically to work with the quarterback.

At the same time, Childress said he expects Culpepper to spend some time this offseason in Minnesota.

"I think the offseason program starts March 20, which traditionally has been well attended," Childress said. "He's going to want to put his best foot forward, I'm sure. He'll want to be a part of that. ..."

In a related note. ... PFW suggested this week that hiring Childress might have helped save Michael Bennett from shopping for a new address. Bennett, an unrestricted free agent in March, was recruited by Childress to Wisconsin and appears to fit Childress' style of offense.

In Green Bay. ... New head coach Mike McCarthy didn't wait long to make a charge at offensive coordinator. He fired Tom Rossley early Friday and reported on Saturday that Jeff Jagodzinski was hired to fill that role.

As staff writer Pete Dougherty noted before the hiring, Jagodzinski, who served Atlanta's offensive line coach in 2005, was the Packers' tight ends coach when McCarthy was the team's quarterbacks coach in 1999. Jagodzinski remained as tight ends coach through 2003, when former head coach Mike Sherman fired him.

McCarthy was looking for an offensive coordinator with a background in coaching the offensive line and who can be in charge of the team's running game.

He's considering deploying a zone-blocking scheme similar to what Denver uses, and Jagodzinski has learned that scheme the past two years working with former Broncos line coach Alex Gibbs. Gibbs was Atlanta's offensive line coach in 2004 and was an offensive-line consultant for Jagodzinski this year. ...

In Kansas City. ... Fallout surrounding Herman Edwards' departure from New York continued to run towards the critical. You can count San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami as one who was not too impressed with Edwards' speech Monday about the value of commitment in the NFL.

Kawakami wrote: "I guess Herman Edwards decided that it's fine to live an honorable and comfortable life in New York, but it's far better to be a very wealthy Kansas City hypocrite.

"'I know what the National Football League is about,' Edwards said (Monday). 'It's about commitment.'

"Oh, sure. Got it, Herm.

"After preaching long and convincingly about accountability and commitment during his Gotham run, what's Edwards' credibility level now that he has cut and run as soon as some extra cash was flashed?

"Edwards can say nothing now. Except: I got mine."

Sports Illustrated senior writer Don Banks was similarly unimpressed, writing: "Note to Edwards: You got the job you wanted at the money you wanted, so good for you. But you didn't come out of the move from the Jets to the Chiefs with your reputation for integrity and straight-shooting untarnished.

"I can understand you not wanting to re-hash the immediate past, since nothing about your self-executed escape from New York looks particularly pretty in the rear-view mirror. ..."

Meanwhile, Edwards told the Chiefs' web site that he has made "some requests" to the Jets for permission to interview assistants. Edwards fired his special teams coach, so it's likely that he'd like to hire Mike Westhoff.

However, the Daily News reports that Edwards' former assistants are under contract and Jets GM Terry Bradway said he won't allow them to speak with other teams until the new head coach is hired and can evaluate them.

Also according to the Daily News, many of Edwards' former assistants, perhaps even the whole group, never received a farewell call from him. Obviously, there are tampering rules that must be followed, but he could've called last weekend -- before signing his Chiefs contract -- to let them know his plans.

While current Jets coordinator Mike Heimerdinger has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Edwards, Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini and Mike Tice (in that order) appear to be in line ahead of him at this point.

According to those who follow both teams closely, Heimerdinger seems most likely to emerge as a candidate for the Broncos' coordinator post. Current coordinator Gary Kubiak is expected to be named the Texans' coach.

Heimerdinger, the receivers coach in Denver during its Super Bowl run, and Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan are extremely close. ...

In Houston. ... Texans owner Bob McNair's decision to keep Charley Casserly as general manager has major implications for the April draft.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen began reporting last week that Houston has already decided to go with USC tailback Reggie Bush. While there aren't many facts backing his contention, there are theories.

Some believe that Casserly's presence makes it unlikely the team will draft a quarterback because the GM still believes in David Carr, who was drafted first overall in 2002.

And according to Sporting News columnist Dan Pompei, had McNair changed general managers, it's almost certain the Texans would have selected hometown hero Vince Young.

Young's performance in the Rose Bowl convinced many NFL scouts the junior is the best prospect in the draft.

Pompei went on to note those scouts also say Young is a better prospect than Michael Vick. Young is more comfortable in the pocket and shows more poise as a passer than Vick did in college. ...

Meanwhile, in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback column, and HBO insider Peter King passed along the "Reggie Bush Stat of the Day That McNair and Casserly Do Not Want to Hear: In 39 college games, Bush carried the ball more than 20 times only twice. ..."

In Baltimore. ... The Ravens' points per game (16.5) and touchdowns (25) in 2005 were the fewest in the team's 10-year history. They finished 25th in the NFL in scoring. Fortunately, head coach Brian Billick understands the importance of rectifying the situation.

"In every phase, we are going to look for competition and to better ourselves, specifically at the quarterback position," Billick said. "We'll evaluate, given the proper amount of time, exactly how far Kyle Boller has come, where he is now, what we can reasonable project from him going forward."

In nine games this season, Boller went 4-5 as the starter and completed 58.4 percent of his passes. He threw for 1,799 yards including six touchdowns and nine interceptions.

His best run came in two December games in which he completed 70 percent of his passes and averaged 271 yards a game. He threw six touchdown passes and was intercepted once for a 123.8 passer rating.

Still, the Ravens will seek a quarterback to compete with Boller in the offseason.

Despite their inability to run the ball and Boller's struggles, there were some positives for Baltimore's offense. As insider Len Pasquarelli initially reported it last

As the Xchange noted this week, Mark Clayton finished with the most catches of the six receivers taken in the first round with 44. Unlike most rookies, Clayton played his best at the end of the season.

Derrick Mason and Todd Heap combined for 161 catches, the most by a receiver-tight end combination in the NFL this season and Heap became the Ravens' all-time leading receiver this season with 243 catches and 2,893 yards. ...

In Seattle. ... Matt Hasselbeck completed in 76.1 percent of his passes in December, an NFL record for quarterbacks with at least four games and 80 pass attempts in the month. Steve Young is second at 73.8 percent in December 1994.

In San Francisco. ... Rookie running back Frank Gore is expected to have surgery on both shoulders this offseason and PFW reports it will take at least four weeks of recovery for each shoulder. Also facing surgery is fellow halfback Kevan Barlow, who will have an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee. ...

And finally. ... According to Philadelphia Daily News staffer Paul Domowitch, Dick Vermeil said there's no better than a 50-50 chance that Priest Holmes will play next season.