Owens' contract could net him record money

The contract that Terrell Owens signed with the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday provides him the opportunity to be one of the highest-paid wide receivers in NFL history over a three-year period, and the chance to earn more than he would have under his contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, ESPN.com has learned.

The three-year contract can be worth as much as $25 million if Owens plays through the deal and Dallas opts to pay him pricey roster bonuses in the springs of 2007 and 2008.

Owens, who was released by the Eagles on Tuesday, will earn a bonus of $5 million for this season and a base salary of $5 million, for total compensation of $10 million. Under his contract with the Eagles, Owens would have earned $8.52 million for 2006.

It should be noted that Owens lost about $4 million in 2005, between the base salary that he forfeited during his suspension and the prorated signing bonus money the Eagles withheld because they claimed he was in default on his contract.

Dallas must pay Owens a roster bonus of $3 million in March 2007 to retain him for that season, at a base salary of $5 million. There is another roster bonus of $3 million due in March 2008, and Owens has a base salary of $4 million for that year.

Under the terms of the seven-year, $49 million contract that Owens signed with Philadelphia after being traded to the Eagles in 2004, he would have earned $20.27 million for the 2006-2008 seasons. So there is the potential, should the contract with the Cowboys remain intact, for Owens to make nearly $5 million more in Dallas than he would have with the Eagles.

Compared to the contracts of other high-profile wide receivers leaguewide, Owens can earn more over a three-year period than Randy Moss of Oakland did with his recent deal, and more over two seasons than Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison did with his new contract signed two years ago.

Of course, as was the case in Philadelphia, Owens' earning potential will be tied to his performance on and off the field. Because of the roster bonus, and the exercise dates of each, the contract in Dallas could be as short as one season. Even at one year, however, the $10 million that Owens will bank is more than some skeptics felt he could garner after his tumultuous 2005 season.

And if Owens is productive, and is not a distraction, the Cowboys seem to have the wherewithal and the future salary cap space to retain him for all three seasons of the contract.

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