But if the team does sign a player with the baggage Owens brings, it's tougher for general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo to say they're building a team the right way. It's easier to say they're desperate and feeling pressure amid a pending ownership change. And who could blame them?
Signing Owens was a desperation move when the Buffalo Bills added the former Pro Bowl receiver last offseason. The Bills were starving for talent and relevance. Signing Owens gave them instant gratification. Owens lasted one year in Buffalo and the organization gained nothing for the long term. The Bills' record worsened, they scored substantially fewer points and they fired their head coach during the season.
The Rams are an interesting study. They went young last season as they tried to establish Spagnuolo's program. They've added seasoning to their roster this offseason, picking up Hank Fraley, Fred Robbins and other veterans. They shipped out one of their five best offensive linemen, Alex Barron, ostensibly because Barron's frequent penalties, inconsistent play and questionable dedication didn't fit with what the Rams were attempting to build. They wanted to build with the right types of guys.
Owens wouldn't seem to fit the mold. He has at times spoken from frustration in ways disruptive to the team. Spagnuolo and Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur were with the Eagles when Philadelphia suspended Owens for conduct detrimental to the team. Owens had said he thought the Eagles would have been better off with Brett Favre at quarterback instead of Donovan McNabb, implying that Favre was tougher. Imagine what Owens might say about Sam Bradford after a few rookie mistakes.
Owens does work hard. He would instantly become the best receiver on the team even though his skills have eroded.
Signing Owens could work for the Rams on a few counts:
The lack of interest in Owens this offseason gives his next team more leverage to make sure Owens joins that team on the team's terms. Owens would not be getting a lucrative long-term deal. The Rams could release him if Owens didn't live up to their expectations.
The Rams might feel as though they have strong enough veteran leadership now to welcome a powerful personality to their locker room without jeopardizing the values they've sought to instill. Spagnuolo and Shurmur are already familiar with Owens from their days in Philadelphia. Fraley is also among current Rams familiar with Owens.
That familiarity works both ways. The Rams are running the offense Philadelphia ran when Owens played for the Eagles. He would know more about the offense than quite a few Rams players.
It's still quite possible Owens is using the Rams to leverage a better deal from another team. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that the Cincinnati Bengals are another option. If Owens preferred the Bengals to the Rams -- and that would make sense based on the Bengals' superior prospects for 2010 -- it would serve him if the Bengals thought the Rams were ramping up efforts to sign him.
"One source said the Rams have gotten very aggressive in their pursuit of Owens and it's possible that Owens will sign with the Rams or Bengals within the next 48 to 72 hours," Mortensen reported.
Owens is obviously desperate. The Rams should be desperate, too.
Adding Owens would make the Rams more interesting and more talented. I just don't see any reason for Owens to end his career with a rebuilding team -- unless it's the only job he can get.
The chart shows where Owens' 2009 stats ranked compared to NFC West receivers.