The Dallas Morning News, ESPN and Fox all reported the news, citing unnamed team sources. The move rids the Cowboys of a big locker-room distraction but also leaves them to absorb a big hit on their salary cap.
The team did not immediately have a comment. A spokesman for Owens said he hadn’t heard the news, and that Owens was traveling and could not immediately be reached. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, also did not immediately return a call made by the Associated Press.
Just a few weeks ago, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones indicated that T.O. was staying when he said, “You and I both know that the one that you’re asking about all the time, if I gave you the answer that you want to hear, then you would’ve already had it. So the fact you don’t have it ought to tell you something. It really should.”
Jones seemed to enjoy the publicity Owens stirred up as much as the touchdowns he scored. However, there were several in-house issues involving Owens that may have ultimately prompted Jones to decide the receiver wasn’t worth the trouble he caused.
Owens will count about $9 million against the cap. His absence means one less high-profile player to open the Cowboys’ new, $1.1 billion stadium, and fewer No. 81 jerseys to sell.
While Tony Romo also will be without the recipient of most his touchdown passes, he also will no longer have to make sure T.O. has enough passes his way to make him happy. Whether that was perception or reality will no longer matter either.
The Cowboys went 31-17 in Owens’ three seasons, but 0-2 in the playoffs.
Jones essentially forced Owens on then-coach Bill Parcells, a relationship underscored by Parcells referring to Owens as “the player.” Owens drew attention to himself during training camp by dressing up as a pro cyclist while riding a stationary bike, then had an accidental overdose early that season.
Yet when Parcells turned to unproven Romo midway through that season, Owens sparkled. They kept it up the next season, leading the Cowboys to all sorts of club records on their way to a 13-3 season and a division title. The Cowboys lost their first playoff game, days after Romo and others went on a trip to Mexico, and Owens tearfully defended Romo, saying, “That’s my quarterback.”
Owens got a new contract last summer, a four-year, $34 million deal that included a $12 million bonus.
The best news for Owens would be if the cameras were rolling for the new reality TV show he has in the works when he got the news from the Cowboys.
Where might he end up next? That’s sure to be the next drama, and perhaps more great fodder for his TV show.
He’s not likely to return to San Francisco or Philadelphia, the other places he wore out his welcome. Then again, it seemed unlikely he would come to Dallas after having offended Cowboys fans by celebrating on the team’s star logo while playing for the 49ers.
Don’t expect him in Miami, not as long as Parcells is in charge. And perhaps also count out Kansas City because new coach Todd Haley and Owens hardly got along when Haley was Dallas’ offensive coordinator.
The Cowboys should still have a potent passing game, at least if receiver Roy Williams can live up to his big contract and the two draft picks Dallas gave up to get him from Detroit. Romo also still has his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten.
Over three years with the Cowboys, Owens caught 235 passes for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns in 47 games. He led the NFL with 13 TDs receiving in 2006, his first season in Dallas.
Over his 13-year career, he’s a five-time All-Pro and ranks second in career touchdowns, fifth in career yards receiving and sixth in career receptions. He turned 35 in December, but remains a physical specimen.