The Bengals Sign Terrell Owens

Everyone around the NFL is wondering how the receiving duo of T.O and Ochocinco will work out in Cincinnati

Get your popcorn ready as pro football’s greatest reality show has landed in Cincinnati.  No, I am not talking about Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco’s Ray-J inspired VH1 reality dating show, “Ultimate Catch”.  Ochocinco (32) will now have to share marquee top-billing with the city’s newest star, Terrell “T.O.” Owens.

Since the start of the offseason in February, No. 85 had lobbied for his buddy to get a shot and now the fun can finally begin in Cincy. Bengals owner Mike Brown and charismatic head coach Marvin Lewis — trying to win the franchise’s first playoff game in 19 years — added yet another rogue player to their growing list of reclamation projects by signing the enigmatic Owens.  There is no doubt that the future Hall of Fame receiver must be part cat as he has found yet another NFL life – his fifth team overall and fourth since 2004.  The 36-year old receiver signed a one-year, $2 Million deal w/ incentives that could push the contract to $4 Million. 

The arrival of the player that some NFL fans love to hate is definitely stop-the-presses worthy news, even if Owens is closer to the end of his career.  Let’s face it, even as big of a star that Ochocinco has become recently, he is nowhere near T.O — league’s No.1 star attraction outside of posterboy quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  T.O now becomes the second VH1 star in the Bengals lockerroom – his “T.O Show” in its 2nd season of reality bliss has been very popular — but it is on the field that is really what matters most. 

Even T.O’s publicists/homegirls Mo and Kita will tell you that the megawatt star needs to have success catching the football to continue preparing for a Hollywood star life after football (modeling and acting). Owens’ resume is already Hall of Fame-worthy with 1,006 catches for 14,951 yards (14.9 ypc) and 144 TDs — currently ranked 6th all-time in career receptions and 3rd in receiving yards – but if T.O wants a ring he will need to learn to share the spotlight with the entire Bengals organization.

The reason the Bengals are looking to T.O to help them secure their first playoff win in forever was their end of 2009 difficulties.  Though Cincinnati handily won the AFC North – undefeated 6-0 record in division – the New York Jets cleaned their clocks in back-to-back weeks including a 24-14 home loss in the Wildcard round of playoffs.  In those two games, the Bengals were exposed as a one-dimensional running team only with former secondary receiver Laveranues Coles proving that he wasn’t much of a threat — outscored 61 to 14 by Rex Ryan’s Brash Bunch. 

The J-E-T-S’ No.1 ranked defense let RB Cedric Benson get his production – ran 21 times for 169 yards and 1 TD in the playoff loss – but everyone else on the Bengals offense, including Ochocinco and QB Carson Palmer were shutdown in the passing game.  In the Week 17 loss, Ochocinco was shutout by NY Jets Pro Bowl cover corner Darrelle Revis — first time since September 29, 2002, a span of 120 games – and the playoff game wasn’t much better as No. 85 didn’t make a catch until 11:56 remaining in the game while finishing with two receptions for 28 yards.  Palmer wasn’t much better, especially in Week 17 where he finished with career lows in completions (1), yards (0), and passer rating (1.7).  If can say it, the former 4,000-yard passer rebounded with numbers 18/36, 146 YDS, 1 TD, and 1 INT in the disappointing home playoff loss.

It will be real interesting to see if Owens after an almost 15 years in the NFL will be happy being Ochocinco’s sidekick and possibly the second-option in the passing game. Yes…last year in Buffalo, T.O kept his mouth shut for the most part and performed well in bad circumstances.  But there were moments where he disappeared and showed signs of slowing down despite looking in tremendous shape.  Playing on a 1-year, $6.5 million contract, T.O sometimes struggled to beat press coverage and his numbers sagged (55 catches for 829 yards (15.1 ypc) with 5 TDs) compared to his final season with the Dallas Cowboys — 69 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008.  Some will point to the Bills’ offensive line and poor quarterback play as the main reasons for Owens’ decline, but it is now or never for the Bengals and this sometimes pain-in-the-butt receiver.

Other than Ochocinco and Owens, the two people that have to find a way to make it all work are Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and Palmer.  The former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback will need to find a way to shut-up the two talkative receivers in the huddle while also spreading the ball around to keep everyone happy.  In addition to Owens and Ochocinco, the Bengals currently have an on-paper fantasy football player’s dream with an embarrassment of riches including Benson, first round rookie TE Jermaine Gresham, former Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Bryant (knee), former Jags first-round pick Matt Jones, Wes Welker wanna-be Jordan Shipley, and emerging young receiver Andre Caldwell.  Wonder which receivers are going to make the team based on their valuable special teams play.

So even though T.O, Palmer, and Ochocinco continue to play kissy-huggy going into training camp, including Owens making a guest experience on Ocho’s show, eventually something has gotta give…right.  You know the old song, “T.O’s back and there’s gonna be trouble…Hey La…Hey La.. T.O’s back”.  The two veteran receivers/tweeting buddies have been stars in their own regard – both six-time Pro Bowler with a combined six-1,000 yard season — but they also have been accused at times of being “bad” lockerroom guys, especially Owens. 

However I still do believe even though T.O is approaching 37 in December that he still has enough gas in the tank to have a greater impact on the Bengals than Coles — 2009 numbers 43 rec, 514 yards, 12.0 ypc, long of 40 yards, and 5 TDs.  But the real fun will be if games are lost and one loudmouth receiver gets more targets / catches than the other. My PFWA colleague Don Banks of recently tweeted of Owens joining Mike Brown’s Wayward Home for players, “Bengals with T.O, Pacman, et al, now remind me of early in sub-prime mortgage era when there was no apparent thought of risks being taken”. 

Hopefully the Bengals will be able to look like the 1980 Oakland Raiders, who where able to turn a rowdy bunch of free-spirited players into a Super Bowl championship team.  But surely adversity awaits in the upcoming 2010 NFL season and you can expect the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers to exert as much heat as possible on the Bengals.  I am officially setting the T.O / Ochocinco meltdown alarm for November 9 when the Bengals host the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. 

So now it is “Lights, Camera, Action” time as all of the Bengals’ players will report for training camp at Georgetown College in tiny Georgetown, Kentucky on Wednesday July 28th.  Too bad the Bengals were last year’s feature team on the NFL Films / HBO series Hard Knocks as this year’s training camp should be memorable. 


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


One Response

  1. […] Owens Drives Ticket Sales Terrell Owens signed with the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday for a 1 year $2.5 million contract with incentives that could make the contract worth […]

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