Owens remains under contract with Niners

Updated: February 27, 2004, 9:05 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Terrell Owens is still under contract to the San Francisco 49ers after the star receiver apparently missed a deadline for voiding the rest of his contract.

Terrell Owens

Owens, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, didn't file the necessary paperwork quickly enough this week to become an unrestricted free agent, according to the NFL Management Council. Owens' agent, David Joseph, will file a grievance.

"We voided the contract. There's an issue now as to whether or not the void was effective," Joseph said.

Owens was among several players required to file by a new deadline, which recently was moved up 10 days for players who signed their contracts before the league's 2001 collective bargaining agreement went into effect.

Cleveland receiver Dennis Northcutt made a similar mistake. The Browns announced Thursday that Northcutt's agent failed to void the final three years of his contract by Feb. 19, keeping him with Cleveland.

By missing the deadline, Owens is under contract to San Francisco through 2006 -- and the 49ers get an unexpected bonus in what's shaping up to be a difficult offseason. The 49ers also released three veterans on Thursday: running back Garrison Hearst, offensive tackle Derrick Deese and defensive lineman Sean Moran.

"I have spoken to the NFL Management Council and they have confirmed that Terrell Owens will not be among the players listed as an unrestricted free agent," 49ers general manager Terry Donahue said.

The mix-up doesn't necessarily mean Owens will play for the Niners next season. The team had expected to lose him in free agency for practically nothing, so San Francisco might use Owens' contract status to work out a trade.

Owens is due to make $17.7 million in base salary over the next three seasons, including $5.3 million next year -- a relative bargain for one of the NFL's best receivers.

He had been counting on a big payday in his first venture onto the free-agent market, hoping to land a signing bonus of more than $15 million from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta or a handful of other teams with the cap space to sign a star receiver.

Owens has spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the 49ers, who drafted him in the third round in 1996. He has been chosen to the last four Pro Bowls, but missed the game earlier this month with a broken collarbone.

Owens and Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison are the only receivers with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over the past four seasons. Owens had 80 catches for 1,102 yards and nine TDs last season -- his lowest totals since 1999.

Owens also has feuded with teammates, coaches, management and the media in recent seasons. While Owens spoke openly of his desire to move to another team in the offseason, the 49ers designated All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson as their exclusive franchise player -- apparently conceding they wouldn't sign Owens.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press