Adding T.O. would revamp WR corps

Updated: March 15, 2004, 3:27 AM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' search for a No. 1 receiver could end this week.

Terrell Owens' hearing to determine whether he can become a free agent will be heard Monday at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. If Owens is declared a free agent, the Eagles finally could give quarterback Donovan McNabb the target he has desperately sought.

The Eagles reportedly agreed to a contract with Owens that included a $10 million signing bonus, before he was traded from San Francisco to Baltimore for a second-round pick March 4.

The standout receiver was prevented from becoming a free agent when the NFL Management Council ruled two weeks ago that his agent, David Joseph, failed to void the remaining years of his contract with the 49ers by a Feb. 21 deadline.

Owens protested the trade to the Ravens, refused to show up for a physical and insisted he wants to play for the Eagles.

The case, filed on Owens' behalf by the NFL Players Association, will be heard by Stephen Burbank, a professor at Penn's Law School. A decision is expected by Tuesday.

Owens caught 80 passes for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last season -- his lowest totals since 1999. He has been selected to the last four Pro Bowls while feuding with teammates, coaches, the 49ers' front office and the media.

Despite his volatile behavior, Owens would significantly upgrade Philadelphia's receiving corps. The Eagles had perhaps the league's worst starting receivers, James Thrash and Todd Pinkston. The duo combined for just 85 catches and three TDs last season. In Philadelphia's 14-3 loss to Carolina in the NFC championship game, Thrash had one catch and Pinkston had none.

Owens has spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the 49ers, who drafted him in the third round in 1996. He and Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison are the only receivers with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over the past four seasons.

Owens' antics on and off the field have tainted some of his accomplishments, however.

Two years ago, he pulled out a pen and signed a ball after scoring a touchdown in Seattle. He wasn't fined for the move but was severely chastised by commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who said he would be disciplined for future stunts.

Owens once precipitated a melee during a game by dancing on the Dallas Cowboys' star at midfield after scoring.

He threw a sideline tantrum during a game against Cleveland last season, and lost it again the following week against Minnesota, chewing out offensive coordinator Greg Knapp after the 49ers were stopped on a fourth-and-1 running play.

Still, the Eagles tried to work out a trade with the 49ers. San Francisco general manager Terry Donahue said Eagles coach Andy Reid first offered a fifth-round draft pick and Thrash. Donahue said Reid rejected counter offers, so the team traded Owens to Baltimore.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press