It all started in 2004, when Owens -- a San Franisco 49er -- had an issue with his agent missing the deadline to void his contract. The 49ers tried to trade T.O. to the Ravens, but Owens did not want that. Eventually he was acquired by the Eagles in a three-team deal and signed to a new deal.
And in 2004, T.O. became the star of Philadelphia, catching 77 balls for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games, despite having a somewhat rocky relationship with quarterback Donovan McNabb. In December of 2004, Owens fractured his fibula and was expected to miss the remainder of the season and most likely, postseason. But when his team reached the Super Bowl, Owens defied doctors orders and played, somehow catching 9 balls for 122 yards in the loss.
The following offseason, April 2005, Owens announced that he had hired a new agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Rosenhaus indicated Owens wants to have his contract renegotiated with the Eagles after his made $9 million in 2004 and was expected to make $4.5 million in 2005. While he was in the second-year of his seven year, $49 million deal, he was not among the top 10 highest paid wide receivers in terms of annual average guaranteed dollars.
After playing seven games with the Eagles in 2005, T.O. was suspended indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the team," which included bad mouthing and not apologizng to McNabb and a fight with Hugh Douglas. That following offseason the Eagles released Owens.
Oh, what could have been.
"I understand that this is controversial," Banner said on January 30th, 2020. "I certainly wish we would have been able to keep him on the team in a way that wasn't divisive or damaging to the team. To this day there's been no player—and that includes all the Peyton Manning's and Tom Brady's of the world—who have signed a long-term deal that was re-done after one year. And the fact of the matter is, despite the way it was portrayed by some, we paid T.O. a fair market deal. At that time the top wide receiver in the league was making seven a half, eight million dollars per year and his deal was just under seven and a half million dollars per year.
"So from our perspective, the message that we would be sending and the risk to other players—and we had a number of players on the team that were great players, that could have come in at any moment and demanded new contracts. And even though the public didn't really see a lot of divineness until the contract situation became public, there were things in 2004 that were concerning to us. They hadn't blown up as the major controversies. We did know, obviously, he had a history of being a little bit divisive and we had seen some things in 2004 that, although we overcame them, were concerning to us in terms of the future and the risk of how it may affect the team and the locker room.
"I was concerned about the precedent it would create after one year, which was a fair-market deal. People don't remember, or even ever even knew, the three year contract he signed with Dallas paid him over the next three years the exact same amount of money he was due over the next three years with Philadelphia. So he became a free-agent, 31 teams got to bid on him, and none of them paid him anymore than we were going to pay him. He obviously converted some non guaranteed to guaranteed money by going to Dallas, but we probably would have been willing to do that if that was the only issue. The way he or his agents had presented that to us it was a lot more complicated. They really wanted to rip up the deal and start from scratch."