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Rumor Or Truth?
January 22 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
For quite some time now there has been speculation that one of the 49ers starting two receivers would not be back in position next season. However until recently, most would have believed that player to be JJ Stokes. Instead, with the most recent rumors that the 49ers could leave Terrell Owens unprotected for the expansion draft, the 49ers world seems to be flipping upside down.

While at the time these are only rumors on Owens - and in fact, unconfirmed reports have Donahue stating that he examined the possibility but has decided against it, itís interesting to examine why this move could happen and what the ramifications would be. There are a few motives for such a move: a) Owens and Mariucci donít get a long, b) Owens is worth more now than he ever likely will be, c) Removing Owens from the team now would send a strong message to the rest of the team to fall in line, while removing any likely locker room disruption, d) The 49ers could use the salary cap space and talent in distributed position perhaps better than at the isolated position of receiver.

Under the rumored scenario, the 49ers would leave Owens open to the Texans in the expansion draft. However before doing so, an agreement to give the 49ers the number one pick in the college draft as well as another pick, likely having the teams swapping second, and the 49ers possibly pick up a third round pick. In addition the Texans would likely have to agree to take two players, likely Jr Bryant and Greg Clark off the 49ers hands via the expansion draft, thereby freeing the 49ers of any financial responsibility to the three players - an approximate $8 million in savings.

Why The Deal Works:
The 49ers would be giving up the best receiver in football, but would be receiving an incredible amount of cap relief and great draft pick compensation. With the first overall pick the 49ers could either go after defensive end Julius Peppers who could bring the 49ers into incredible shape on the defensive front. Alternatively the 49ers could trade out of the number one spot and likely pick up two first rounder picks as well some lower picks. This too could provide the 49ers with a ton of talent. Additionally with the immense salary cap savings the 49ers would be in good position to sign all of their unrestricted free agents, such as Lance Schulters, Fred Beasley, Garrison Hearst and Jeremy Newberry, all of whom the team wants to bring back this season. Potentially the team could also sign one big name free agent.

Why Texas Would Make This Deal:
Firstly, picking up some guys like Clark and Bryant despite their salaries would have little effect on the team because they have a fresh salary cap to work with. The Texans would either get the biggest impact player they can imagine or shop him around the league for several quality players to build their team around.

Why The Deal Doesnít Work:
The 49ers lose out on a superstar of a receiver in football. The loss of Owens 16 touchdowns is a lot to part with, despite having Stokes and Streets available. Both Stokes and Streets have proven to be adequate receivers but nothing amazing, and thus the onus would fall further on Jeff Garcia and the coaching staff to get creative and make things happen.

Thereís lots of reasons to believe this trade could happen. Aside from the ones mentioned above, also consider that Mariucci loves the run game, and would love to build a team around the run. He could do that if his biggest playmaker was at the running back position. The team would also benefit potentially on defense if they drafted Peppers, who would bring something to the 49ers defensive line they havenít seen since Chris Doleman. Owens is likely going to be worth more this off-season than at any other point in his career, and there wont be many opportunities to get a deal like the one currently rumored.

For the moment, all we really have to go on are rumors, and what appears to be the Texans shopping around Owens and seeing if there is interest in him. The precedent for such a move occurred when Cleveland received their expansion franchise, so it isnít inconceivable that the 49ers would do it again. All this talk leaves us all craving for answers, and with the due date for expansion draft players today, January 22nd, we should get our answers soon. If Owens is left available the 49ers will have had very good reason to do it (providing they get similar compensation to that aforementioned), if however no such move occurs, Owens and the 49ers will have just one more issue to work out between them.

Talk about it in the 49ers Paradise Forum

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