Owens, who advised NFL fans during the past two seasons that they'd better bring their popcorn when watching him and the Cowboys play, may find it hard to get a high-paying job in the NFL. Sure, the Oakland Raiders might be interested. Al Davis loves big-play receivers and he's not afraid to add a player with a big ego. But the rest of the league might not be as understanding.
When Owens signed with the Cowboys, he realized he might be in a "last chance" situation. In quarterback circles, he's considered a locker-room cancer. He burned his bridges in San Francisco by constantly criticizing quarterback Jeff Garcia and complaining about not getting the ball enough. In Philadelphia, he destroyed his relationship with Donovan McNabb and caused a split in the locker room that took two years to repair.
The surprise in his release, reported first by ESPN's Michael Smith on Wednesday night, was that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave up on him. Jones has been the most supportive owner in football for two troubled players. He supported Pacman Jones until the end of the season, when he gave him his release. Until Wednesday, the owner resisted a campaign within the Cowboys organization to release Owens, because Jones believed in the receiver's big-play ability.
Owens has a twofold problem ahead. He's going to be 36 years old in December, and older receivers usually don't have 1,000-yard seasons. There have been only five 1,000-yard seasons by receivers older than 35 since 1983. Jerry Rice had three of them. Joey Galloway, formerly of the Bucs, and Jimmy Smith, formerly of the Jaguars, had the other two.
According to multiple sources, Owens even lost the support of quarterback Tony Romo, who hoped Jones wouldn't bring him back. Romo and Owens had great success during their early days together, but the drain of last season's complaints wore on Romo, according to a source. In a game against the Redskins early in the season, Romo threw to Owens 18 times; in turn, the receiver complained about not getting the ball enough. Romo and tight end Jason Witten apparently tired of T.O.
As a well-conditioned athlete, Owens could draw interest in time. But the process won't be quick. As Jones found out in Dallas, T.O. can bring early success, but there can be long-term problems. The longer Owens stays, the more he alienates the quarterback and other offensive players. As time goes on, Owens tries to rally support of the defensive players.
It's too early in this process to say T.O. is done. He is a talent. But it's pretty evident that he's a short-term fix for a passing offense, and he wears out his welcome. He did it in San Francisco, Philadelphia and, now, Dallas. For T.O., it's buyer beware.
Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com