It looks like Terrell Owens may be in the news this summer for more than just his plans to skip his Hall of Fame ceremony. Last month, the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos added the 44-year-old Owens to their negotiation list. That alone didn’t mean all that much, as plenty of players are added to those lists and never wind up in the CFL, but now, 3 Down Nation’s Justin Dunk has reported that Owens has activated the 10-day window for Edmonton to sign him or release his rights:
Receiver Terrell Owens activated the 10-day window that will force the Edmonton Eskimos to offer him a contract or release his rights on July 14, per sources.
The move by Owens is a sign he’s interested in coming to play in the CFL.
…Under CFL rules, any player on a team’s exclusive 45-man negotiation list can demand to be offered a contract within 10 days. If a contract offer is not received within that period, the player is removed from the neg list. If a contract offer is received but rejected, the player is removed from the list one year from the offer date.
Edmonton could offer Owens a two-year contract – all entry contracts are one-year plus a team held option – at the league minimum of $54,000 (Canadian) per season and retain his rights until into the 2019 season. Edmonton-based agent Jason Staroszik is handling the CFL negotiations for Owens.
As Dunk notes, this doesn’t necessarily mean a ton; all Edmonton would have to do to keep Owens’ rights for at least the next season is offer him a league-minimum deal, which he’d be unlikely to actually sign. But this might indicate that Owens is actually somewhat interested in the idea of playing pro football again. And if there’s some actual interest from the Eskimos (or another CFL team; they could sell his rights on) in offering him a deal that might get him north of the border, this could lead to something.
There are still a couple big questions with this, though, and one is if any CFL team’s offer would actually convince Owens to come play in Canada. It seems unlikely he’s doing so for the league minimum (the aforementioned $54,000 Canadian, which is currently worth about $41,000 U.S.), but even a better offer might not be all that much better. Quarterbacks can make a fair bit in the CFL (over $500,000 Canadian or $380,000 U.S. for some), but at other positions, even the best or most established players are usually making around $150,000 Canadian ($114,000 U.S.) at most, maybe $200,000 ($152,000 U.S.) in rare circumstances. Is that worth it for Owens?
Alternatively, it’s also worth pondering if an offer closer to the higher end of that scale than the minimum is worth it for any CFL team. In 2018, the CFL’s salary cap is only $5.20 million Canadian per team, giving them $92,000 to spend on each member of the 56-man roster if all things were equal. As mentioned above, all things are not equal; starting quarterbacks (and likely even most backups) make significantly more than that, so the actual pool of money for non-quarterbacks is smaller. Yes, many players are on league-minimum salaries, but teams still have to be extremely careful with the bigger-contract veterans they do make bets on, and many capable players are released every year more for cap reasons than for performance.
While a significant contract might have a chance of enticing Owens north, it might not be worth it for the team, especially considering that many younger NFL players have proven unable to adapt to the CFL, and that Owens is 44 and hasn’t played in a NFL game since 2010. (He’s since played some indoor football and flag football, and did sign a deal with the Seattle Seahawks in August 2012, but was cut later that month.) The closest comparison to Owens to the CFL in recent memory is probably Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, who signed with the Montreal Alouettes in 2014, but only played in five games, recording seven catches for 151 yards. He was 36 at the time, eight years younger than Owens is now. And that move certainly doesn’t appear to have been worth it in retrospect. (The Johnson move, like many others, also shows that the “It will be a PR win and draw attention!” arguments for CFL teams to sign big-name college or NFL players doesn’t usually lead to actual tangible improvements in attendance or TV ratings.)
Of course, this could all be much ado about nothing. Maybe Owens is only doing this to see if Edmonton will actually offer him a contract, and maybe he’ll be disappointed and decline when those numbers actually come in. Or maybe he’s doing this to see if there might be another CFL team out there willing to acquire his rights and pay him what he thinks he’s worth. Or maybe he’s doing it just to get some buzz. In any case, Owens actually playing in the CFL still seems like a reasonably long-odds scenario at this point. But this move does mean that those odds have shrunk from when he was first placed on a negotiation list.