Compromise would give 49ers a draft pick

Updated: March 2, 2004, 7:36 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw is working on a compromise to clear up the status of wide receiver Terrell Owens, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports.

League sources told Mortensen that Upshaw hopes to engineer a deal that would allow Owens to become an unrestricted free agent while providing draft-pick compensation to the San Francisco 49ers.

Terrell Owens
Owens

Under Upshaw's plan, the 49ers would get the 33rd overall pick in the April draft, a pick that would be slotted between the first and second rounds.

Owens, a four-time Pro Bowl player, missed the league-mandated Feb. 21 deadline to void the remaining three years of his contract and leave the 49ers. Owens and his agent, David Joseph, cited specific contract language that states March 2 as the deadline.

The union, waiting to see if Upshaw can finalize his deal, has not yet filed a grievance on Owens' behalf. In addition to union approval, the 49ers and the NFL Management Council would also need to sign off on any deal involving Owens.

There is a precedent for the NFL to reward an extra pick to a team to settle a contractual problem.

In 1998, the Oakland Raiders received a compensatory pick at the end of the first round in order to settle a dispute on whether the club had a viable option on defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, who was granted free agency.

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 last week that Northcutt's agent failed to void the final three years of his contract by Feb. 19, keeping him with the Browns.

By missing the deadline, Owens is under contract to San Francisco through 2006. He 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 last 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.