Thrash could be on way out

Terrell Owens' arrival in Philadelphia means that a veteran WR will likely be sent packing.

Updated: March 16, 2004, 5:55 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Now that the squeakiest wheel has been oiled to the tune of a $10 million signing bonus, and the league has inched even closer to the NFL Players Association in that king-sized labor bed they share, one question remains for the Philadelphia Eagles organization.

And, no, it isn't whether Terrell Owens' longtime abbreviation of a nickname will now stand for "Tantrums Over." Try this one instead: With the much coveted Owens now onboard, which of the Eagles' veteran wide receivers will be bumped aside to make room for the petulant one?

By adding Owens to the mix, the Eagles secure a classic "lead" receiver, something that the Eagles essentially have lacked during Andy Reid's coaching tenure. It also means the offense, a spread-the-wealth design that all but frowned on establishing one wideout as the focus, will have to be altered. And, from a personnel standpoint, it means someone has to be eliminated.

James Thrash
Thrash
The acquisition brings Owens to a group that already includes starters James Thrash and Todd Pinkston, "nickel" receiver and former first-round draft choice Freddie Mitchell, and promising youngster Billy McMullen. One member of the holdover quartet won't be with the Eagles on opening day and, more likely, will be gone by training camp.

Sure, fans will ask why a team can't keep all five guys, but that would be unrealistic. Not so much from an economic standpoint, since Philadelphia always has cap space to spare, although money does enter into the decision to some extent. But more from a roster quota standpoint, since someone has to play special teams, and none of the current five wide receivers is exactly adept at running down under punts and kickoffs.

Such are the pragmatic and real-world ramifications of the Owens trade. At least, the Owens trade that apparently counts in the NFL's eyes, unless Philadelphia defensive end Brandon Whiting decides he doesn't want to be shipped from an Eagles team that should reach its fourth straight conference title game, and files a grievance.

It isn't likely that, less than a year after awarding the enigmatic Pinkston a new contract extension, the Eagles would dump or trade him. The beanpole wide receiver, even given his incredibly poor performance over the second half of the 2003 campaign, remains a player of compelling potential. His new contract, which runs through 2008, doesn't have a cap value of over $2 million until the 2007 season.

Mitchell, a first-round choice in 2001 and a bust in each of his first two seasons, really emerged as a "go to" receiver for Donovan McNabb in the second half of 2003. It was Mitchell, recall, who found enough separation in the middle of the Packers secondary to make the big catch on fourth-and-24 in the divisional round game. Having waited for the former UCLA star to mature, Philadelphia isn't about to unload him now and waste all the patience expended by the coaching staff.

A third-round choice in 2003, McMullen caught just one pass for two yards as a rookie, but has a big frame, huge hands, deceptive speed and undeniable upside. He's not going anywhere, either.

Which leaves, no drum roll necessary, Thrash as the most likely victim of Owens' arrival. We won't characterize Thrash as an odd-man out, because he is anything but odd, a tough warrior who does what is asked of him, including being miscast as a No. 1 receiver. The seven-year veteran was part of at least one of the trade packages pitched to San Francisco officials before the first Owens trade, you know, the one that didn't count. His name, you can bet, will be dangled again soon in trade talks.

Only once in seven seasons has Thrash caught more than 60 passes in a year. But he can be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 wideout for someone, might return kickoffs, and is a class act in the locker room. It just probably won't be the Eagles locker room for long.

One more thing about the Philadelphia offense: Reid has never had a wide receiver catch more than 63 balls in a season with the Eagles and his top wideout during his five-year tenure has averaged 55.4 receptions. Even including the seasons in which Owens had to share the spotlight with Jerry Rice, and when he wasn't the ball magnet he now is, the eight-year veteran has averaged 74 receptions for his career.

Reid will likely have to re-tool at least a bit, will have to make concessions aimed at now getting the ball to Owens, his newest weapon.

It's either that, it seems, or have Owens drag Reid into a grievance proceeding.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

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