June 9, 2012
It was just two years ago that Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco were teammates that put up productive numbers for the Cincinnati Bengals. Owens led Cincinnati with 72 receptions for 983 yards and nine touchdowns, while Ochocinco had 67 grabs for 831 yards and four touchdowns in 2010 for the Bengals.
In the “what have you done for me lately” mentality of the NFL, that production may as well have been two decades ago. Both receivers are currently without a team and on the outside looking in. Owens missed all of last season after recovering from knee surgery. He held a workout to try and draw interest after his return but no NFL teams were interested in even attending, much less offering him a deal. As for Ochocinco, he was traded to New England and posted the worst season of his NFL career. In 15 games, of which he started only three, Ochocinco caught a measly 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown.
Earlier this week, Ochocinco saw his tenure with the Patriots come to an abrupt end as the team released him. With Wes Welker, Deion Branch and the signings of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney, the Patriots are pretty well set at the receiver position. Ochocinco never seemed to mesh with the offense and reportedly had difficulty running routes. He also had a tendency to drop passes when he was open. One that stands out was a drop against Buffalo in week three that would have been a touchdown in an eventual three point defeat.
What’s next for the two receivers? Let’s take a look at their careers and recent events along with what the future may hold.
Owens Out of Luck?
Terrell Owens has had a tremendous NFL career and is likely a Hall of Famer at some point down the line once he is eligible for induction. He currently sits sixth all time in receptions with 1,078, second in receiving yards with 15,934 and second in receiving touchdowns with 153. He has eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark in nine seasons and had at least ten receiving touchdowns in eight campaigns. Two other seasons were locks for 1,000 yard seasons if it wasn’t for injuries.
Unfortunately for Owens, his diva-like mentality and petulant attitude has gotten him run out of several organizations. He was productive in San Francisco but after a 7-9 season in 2003 under coach Dennis Erickson, Owens decided he was finished with the team. He made comments in an interview with “Playboy” that 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia was a homosexual. The 49ers ended up dealing Owens to the Eagles in a three way deal that also involved the Baltimore Ravens on March 16, 2004.
Owens got off to a fast start with the Eagles, hauling in 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 scores in 14 games before having his fibula fractured and suffering a sprained ankle after a horse collar tackle by Dallas safety Roy Williams. He returned in time for the Super Bowl, catching nine passes for 122 yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to New England. It was before the 2005 season that Owens hired Drew Rosenhaus as his new agent and trouble ensued.
Owens demanded that the Eagles renegotiate his contract despite him being in the second year of a seven year, $49 million deal. He continued to complain about the contract and the franchise. The Eagles suspended him for four games without pay then chose not to activate him the remainder of the season. He then would end up being released and signing with the Dallas Cowboys.
Owens lasted three seasons in Dallas before being released in March of 2009. Owens said that he was blindsided by the release and that owner Jerry Jones had told him that he was going to be with the franchise. He spent 2009 with the Buffalo Bills, catching 55 balls for 829 yards, including a 98 yard scoring pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. More convincingly, he stayed out of trouble in an effort to rehabilitate his image. At the end of the season, only the Bengals were interested in Owens and he signed a one year deal to play for the team.
Owens inked a deal with the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League that included part ownership in the franchise. He played in eight games for the Wranglers, catching 35 passes for 420 yards and ten touchdowns. Once again, controversy followed Owens, as the Wranglers released him from his contract on May 29, 2012, citing Owens’ reticence to play in contractually obligated road games and missing a charity appearance at a local hospital. Owens was offered a measly $50 for his share of the team when he was released.
He has retaliated, threatening to sue the Wranglers if they don’t pay him the $160,000 he claims he is owed for four game checks, plus the 50 percent of merchandise and concession sales. The team has yet to respond and it is unclear what the next step in that convoluted discussion is. As for Owens, he’s already planning his future. He fired Rosenhaus last week and replaced him with Jordan Woy. He has hopes of playing in the NFL in 2012, though it is unclear if any team will have interest in him at age 38, even if he has recovered from his knee injury, given his issues with the Wranglers.
Ochocinco Looking to South Beach?
Unlike Owens, who has played for five teams in his fifteen years in the league, Ochocinco had played for the Bengals his entire career before being dealt to New England prior to the 2011 season. He was Cincinnati’s second round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft and left as the franchise leader in career receptions (751), receiving yards (10,783) and receiving touchdowns with 66.
Ochocinco posted seven 1,000 yard seasons with Cincinnati, including six straight from 2002 through 2007. He had four seasons with at least 90 catches, highlighted by a career best 97 in 2007. He led the league in receiving yards in 2006 with 1,369 and had his only season with double digit receiving touchdowns in 2005 when he hauled in ten scoring passes. He also posted three seasons with nine receiving touchdowns.
With the emergence of tight end Brandon Pettigrew and slot receiver Jordan Shipley, Ochocinco was deemed expendable. The Bengals added A.J. Green via the draft and made it clear that he was slotted as the #1 receiver on the depth chart. Rather than pay Ochocinco a truckload of cash, they dealt him to New England for a couple of draft choices and went about working with youth instead of experience that came with baggage. It worked out, as Cincinnati went 9-7 with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and a rookie wide receiver in Green. The team made their first playoff appearance since 2009.
Meanwhile, Ochocinco struggled to fit in with the Patriots. New England is one of the most professional organizations in the NFL and the team is built around a team concept. Ochocinco was not the de facto top threat on the club; in fact, he fell behind Welker, Branch and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the pecking order. As it played out, Gronkowski had more touchdown receptions (17) than Ochocinco had catches (15) in the entire season.
Ochocinco didn’t catch more than two passes in any game last season and went without a catch in four contests. Ochocinco had just one grab in the Patriots’ playoff run, a 21 yard reception against the Giants in the Super Bowl on the opening play of the third quarter.
At age 34, it is clear that the opportunities for long term contracts are dissipating for Ochocinco. His propensity to drop passes and his failure to integrate into the New England system last season also will count against him in the future. That said, there are teams out there that are in need of a receiver who may give him a one or two year contract to try and bolster their offense.
There is speculation that Ochocinco will work out for the Miami Dolphins next week, though agent Drew Rosenhaus, the same agent that Owens fired last week, refused to confirm or deny the speculation. The Dolphins have a major need at receiver, with the trading of All-Pro receiver Brandon Marshall to the Bears earlier this offseason. Currently, Miami has Brian Hartline and Davone Bess projected as the starting wide receivers.
Ochocinco has roots in the Miami area, having gone to high school at Miami Beach High School. The Dolphins need a playmaker and though he is fading, Ochocinco still is a known commodity and could be considered star power. It’s unknown whether he will sign with the Dolphins but sources around the league say that Miami is the only team so far expressing any interest in the mercurial receiver. It may well be a situation similar to what happened to Owens in 2009 when he signed with the Bills.
What’s your take? Are Owens and Ochocinco finished, or do they have something left in the tank to contribute to a team offensively?