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A Rumor Roars To Life; Owens To Dallas A Done Deal?
Just as I was starting to believe recent reports hinting that controversial free-agent receiver Terrell Owens was going to take his sweet time in deciding on and/or reaching agreement with a new NFL team, reports casting doubt on my belief began to circulate late last night.

It all started, oddly enough, with the local Lubbock, Texas CBS television affiliate.

As that outlet originally reported it: "Sources within the Dallas Cowboys have told the KLBK-13 Sports Department that the Cowboys have signed wide receiver Terrell Owens.

"Terms of his contract have not been disclosed.

"The Cowboys plan to announce the signing of Owens officially in a press conference on Monday. ..."

Say what? A local Lubbock television station breaking what might be the biggest player acquisition in an offseason already being recognized for its monumental player movement?

My opinion at the moment was the source alone cast doubt on the report.

Indeed, it wasn't long before editor Mike Florio, citing an unnamed league source, characterized the report as "bogus." ESPN quickly chimed in, too. Citing a "source close to Owens," all the network's outlets claimed the KLBK report was incorrect.

And they weren't alone.

Their reports were followed up by Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff writers Clarence E. Hill Jr. and Mac Engel -- as well-connected a pair of beat writers as you'll find, who cited team officials as saying there was nothing to the story.

Pressed about a possible Monday press conference, Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple told them: "We've got nothing planned."

And when contacted by insider Jay Glazer about the report, Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, vehemently denied that any such deal was finalized.

"I heard about the report too," Rosenhaus said. "Not true. Absolutely not true."

Despite Rosenhaus' denials however, a source close to Owens told Glazer that the receiver has in fact agreed to a three-year deal with the Cowboys -- a deal which likely won't be announced until the weekend in order for owner Jerry Jones, who is reportedly on vacation, to be available in Dallas to properly make the announcement.

Adding to the intrigue, Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw advised readers this morning there is even rumor that some Cowboys sales people have been told to prepare for a deluge of season-ticket requests when the announcement is made next week.

In the end, Glazer summed up the initial series of reports and denials best when he wrote: "Now the next 48 hours will tell who's telling the truth. ..."

Given the amount smoke now billowing around this situation, it's hard to imagine there being no fire whatsoever. And such a deal makes sense on a number of levels.

According to Glazer, talks with the Cowboys heated up when, soon after Owens was released on Tuesday, the Cowboys cut receiver Keyshawn Johnson to avoid a $1 million bonus. Johnson was scheduled to make only $1.5 million this season, but was seeking an extension and a raise.

Owens is two years younger than Johnson and more dynamic, with defenses fearing him deep and across the middle. Glazer added, however, that he has also been disruptive to his own teams, leaving bad feelings in San Francisco and wearing out his welcome even more quickly in Philadelphia, albeit after helping the Eagles get to the Super Bowl.

Glazer also reminded readers that the Eagles have long been wary about the Cowboys trying to land Owens, even asking the NFL to punish Jones for comments in November that they interpreted as trying to woo him. Philadelphia backed off its tampering claim a few days later, but as Glazer suggested, the coming days might prove whether team officials were onto something.

Glazer further suggested that Owens in a Dallas uniform would be a stunning turn of events considering how reviled he was for celebrating touchdowns against the Cowboys on the team's midfield logo at Texas Stadium. But he's a marquee player in every sense, and Jones has never shied from those types.

Or as Cowlishaw put it, signing Owens, "Makes too much sense in a Jerry sort of way, even if it makes no sense in a football or team chemistry sort of way."

But what about Bill Parcells?

Glazer pointed out he had no problem taking in Johnson two years ago when the receiver was coming off a spat with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, but that was different because they'd been together before.

Cowlishaw openly questioned whether Parcells would be on board with this one, writing: "You really think at age 64 he wants to coach this guy, regardless of talent?"

And we are talking about the same Parcells who thought Antonio Bryant was too much of a headache.

That being the case, Cowlishaw added: "You can expect Owens to be a Cowboy this season and you can expect Parcells to be an ex-Cowboys coach in 2007. The contract extension Jones gave him at the end of a failed 2005 season means nothing other than Parcells getting more money out of the owner, and the owner having no idea where to turn once Parcells heads for Saratoga. ..."

While that might be a bit of a reach, there's no doubt an Owens-Parcells pairing would be interesting. But as Glazer noted, the same was thought about Parcells and Jones, and they're three years into their relationship without any known blowups.

Noteworthy, but Jones is Parcells' boss, a role Owens won't share in. ...

Of course, the move makes a great deal of sense on a purely football level.

As Morning News staffer Jean-Jacques Taylor noted Wednesday, Terry Glenn led the Cowboys in receiving yards with 1,136 and seven touchdowns in 2005, but he's primarily a deep threat who works the sideline and stretches the field. Johnson converted third downs -- he finished eighth in the NFL with 25 grabs on third down -- and made catches in traffic.

Owens could be attractive to Jones and the Cowboys because he's a dominant player with the ability to take over a game, and the attention he will draw from defensive backs and linebackers would probably make players such as Glenn, running back Julius Jones and tight end Jason Witten even more effective.

And while he's clearly had problems getting along with teammates -- and coaches and team officials and some in the media -- off the field, there has never been any question regarding Owens' work ethic or production.

"He's obviously a tremendous talent and everybody knows the difficulties he's had," Drew Bledsoe said this week. "Anybody that's going to look at him has to determine how much they'd be willing to take and determine from T.O. where he's at in terms of his attitude toward things.

"There are a lot of things if a team is going to approach T.O. that they've got to weigh."

The bottom line?

According to Cowlishaw: "Owens will be the best receiver the Cowboys have had since Michael Irvin was in his prime. There's not much doubt about that. He can get open on routes and against coverages that Keyshawn could not.

"But Jones is making a mistake in thinking that there is anything magical about the environment at Valley Ranch, that the things that drove T.O. crazy in San Francisco and Philadelphia won't be in place in Dallas.

"This man is going to come here and defer to Bledsoe? A guy who wasn't happy on teams that made deep playoff runs is going to become a good locker room presence on a club that has gone nine years without a postseason victory?

"You don't need any more evidence than what is out there. ..."

But if the two sides could make it through a single season -- as Owens did his first season in Philadelphia -- without any major blowups and with a similar level of success (i.e. a trip to the Super Bowl), I suspect all involved would live with whatever came next.

Stay tuned. We obviously haven't heard the last of this story. Keep an eye on the News & Views and Headline News sections of this site to keep up with the latest.