Approximately 10 years and three weeks ago, on a Thursday no less, Terrell Owens was traded to the Ravens for a second round pick in the 2004 draft. The Ravens were without their first round pick, having traded it to New England in 2003 for the rights to move up and draft Kyle Boller. That pick, by the way, would go on to become Vince Wilfork.
The Ravens, seeking to bolster the offensive talent around their new QB saw a potential value in Owens, who was coming off a productive stint with San Francisco.
The trade would have given Owens to the Ravens at a good market price of three years $17 million, below his market value, even though his contract was expected to be reworked in Baltimore.
The idea made sense. The Ravens had just lost 20-17 to the Titans at home in the playoffs after a less than impressive offensive effort in one of the team's best defensive seasons and in which Ray Lewis had won his second Defensive Player of the Year award. Owens, one of the NFL's stud receivers, had the potential to arrive and greatly improve the play-making ability of the offense.
Owens had other plans.
Expecting to hit free agency and cash in, his agent mixed up the final deadlines in which to void his contract years with San Francisco that would have put him on the market. Now contractually a 49er for the upcoming year, San Francisco was free to deal him.
Instead, Owens, perhaps the most classic case of a wide receiver diva there ever was, filed a grievance complaining that he should be allowed to become a free agent. The obvious reason for this was the amount of money he stood to gain as a free agent.
In a complicated three-way trade, Owens wound up with the Eagles, which gave him a seven year, $49 million contract. That trade would work out pretty well at first for the Eagles, who finally got over the NFC Championship hump and into the Super Bowl against New England, partially thanks to Owens' production.
The honeymoon was short-lived. The very next year Owens complained about this lucrative contract and then went on to start publicized dramas with his quarterback, the team and the coach. Andy Reid would suspend him for the remainder of the 2005 season.
In 2006, he would be cut and go on to bounce around with varying levels of success, but never again any postseason success of consequence.
What did the Ravens do meanwhile? The loss of Owens likely set the Ravens back in 2004 (where they would finish 9-7 and narrowly miss out on the playoffs). In a season in which Ed Reed won DPOY and played at an elite level, it's reasonable to think the Ravens might have done some damage with Owens on-board. After all, the 15-1 Steelers' lone loss of the season was a 30-13 beatdown by the Ravens in Week 2.
In any event, in 2005, the Ravens would make two moves to address the receiver position having lost out on Owens. First they would bring in Derrick Mason, who would go on to set franchise receiving records and become every bit as productive and useful to the Ravens as Owens was for his numerous teams.
Secondly, the Ravens drafted Mark Clayton 22nd overall in 2005. Had the Ravens gotten Owens, it is hard to say where they would have picked in 2005, however, they are a known best player available team, and so it is still possible they would have taken Clayton all the same.
Owens ultimately proved to be an immense pain for every team he played for, none more so than the Eagles who acquired his services over the Ravens in 2004. He proved to be the antithesis of the type of players Baltimore likes to bring in — big personality but not selfish and egotistical.
In the long view, the loss of Owens was likely for the better as Derrick Mason would be a beloved and productive starter for years while Owens routinely wore out his welcome anywhere he went. Still, Owens finished with Hall of Fame worthy statistics and there is no question that Owens would have very likely helped Baltimore in a promising 2004 season but for a strange contractual and legal snafu.
Doesn't the Elvis Dumervil fax fiasco suddenly feel like good contract karma for the Ravens, except 10 years late?