Terrell Owens would put butts in seats for CFL: agent

Terrell Owens wants to kick-start his pro football career in Canada.

The former NFL star receiver has activated a 10-day window to receive a contract offer from the Edmonton Eskimos by July 24 or force them to relinquish his rights. The 44-year-old Owens, who last played south of the border in 2010, has been on the CFL team’s 45-man negotiation list since June 19, shortly after posting a video of himself running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash.

“He wants to get back to playing football,” said Jason Staroszik, the Edmonton-based agent handling Owens’ CFL negotiations, “He really believes he has what it takes to still play in the NFL, but if there’s no NFL opportunities being granted to him he’s got a shot at playing here (in Edmonton).

“If he can prove he can still play up north, I think that will open the eyes of some NFL clubs and maybe have them picking up the phone to see if there’s a possibility of having him on their team.”

Owens has been out of football since 2012 when he had 35 catches for 420 yards and 10 TDs over eight games with the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. Owens signed with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks during training camp that year but was released.

Staroszik isn’t concerned about Owens’ absence from football, partly because his client keeps himself in solid physical condition.

“When guys retire in their 30s, that’s often not a sign of them wanting to be done with football or that their bodies are in bad shape,” Staroszik said. “It’s basically that they’re forced into it by a team.

“T.O. left the game healthy, he left the game still pretty much on top of his game. When I look at a receiver like T.O., I don’t think he has to be 100 per cent of what he was back in the day to still be effective in the game.”

Staroszik feels Owens could excel in the pass-happy CFL and use the longer, wider field to his advantage. That is, after becoming familiar with the nuances of Canadian football.

“I think it would be great for him but that being said, he’s never played the Canadian game,” he said. “There’s quite a gap between the NFL and CFL, so he’d need an adjustment period to get used to it. ”

Right now, the ball is in the Eskimos’ court.

The club could offer Owens a two-year deal at $54,000 annually, the CFL minimum. If Owens rejected it, the franchise would retain his rights for another year. The Eskimos also could trade Owens’ rights or opt against making him an offer within the 10-day period, which would result in the receiver being removed from their negotiation list.

That would allow another CFL team to place him on their negotiation list and effectively re-start the process.

Staroszik said Owens understands he won’t secure a seven-figure payday in Canada. But he added the former NFL star isn’t interested in playing for the CFL minimum salary.

“With any neg-list player I never expect a high contract to come in but given T.O.’s accolades I think he’s a lot more deserving than what they offer a typical neg list player,” Staroszik said. “They could offer us a base minimum if they wanted to, we’d decline that and I’d try to go to the table and get us something that I think is fair for T.O. and the Eskimos.

“I never try to leave a deal with one side unhappy. The best deals are the ones when both sides are happy.”

Trouble is, Edmonton doesn’t need receiving help. D’haquille Williams (31 catches, 556 yards, three TDs), Derel Walker (27 catches, 386 yards, three TDs) and Kenny Stafford (21 catches, 320 yards, one TD) are first, second and fourth, respectively, among CFL receivers.

Owens was selected in the third round, No, 89 overall, of the 1996 NFL draft by San Francisco. He played for five teams _ the 49ers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati _ over 16 seasons, registering 1,078 career catches for 15,934 yards and 153 TDs.

He’s ranked second all-time in receiving yards and third in receiving TDs. Owens was a five-time first-team All-Pro and a six-time Pro Bowler.

But the outspoken Owens was a polarizing figure during his NFL career and continues to be away from the game. He was named for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month but declined an invitation to the enshrinement ceremony.

Instead, Owens will deliver his Hall of Fame speech at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, his alma mater, Aug. 4. The Pro Football Hall of Fame isn’t planning to individually honour Owens during its ceremony.

Staroszik is confident if Owens signs with a CFL team, Canadian football fans will come watch him play.

“You have a game T.O. is playing in, I can guarantee you you’re putting more fans in seats and selling more apparel,” he said. “This is a guy who’s in the gym every day and still wants to play football.”

– CP