Prior to Monday, March 15, the concensus was that the arbitration hearing in Philadelphia would affirm the trade of Owens to the Baltimore Ravens and negate Owens' claim that he should be declared a free agent. Apparently, however, the arbitrator, the University of Pennsylvania's law professor Stephen Burbank, gave enough signs that he was prepared to rule in Owens' favor that the parties immediately launched into negotiations so that a resolution could take place prior to an actual ruling being made.
The NFL Players Association apparently made a strong case that despite a change of notification dates on the part of the league, the original wording of Owens' contract should prevail, in which case Owens and his agent gave proper notice to the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL of his desire to void the remaining three years of his 49er contract.
Ever since the NFL's initial ruling that Owens and his agent missed the notification date, Owens has maintained his position that he should be a free agent with the right to sign a contract with the team of his choice, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Terms of the agreement that brings Owens to Philadelphia involves the Eagles sending an unnamed defensive starter to the 49ers and an unspecified draft pick to the Baltimore Ravens. Unconfirmed reports are that the defensive player will be lineman Brandon Whiting and the draft pick will be the fifth round pick that the Eagles reportedly originally offered to the 49ers along with receiver James Thrash.
All of this is highly reminicent of the arbitration hearing that brought Eric Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1992 thus voiding a deal between the Quebec Nordiques and the New York Rangers.
Terrell Owens brings to the Eagles what they have urgently needed for many years, a game-breaking wide receiver. The Eagles' weakness at wide receiver was never more evident than in their playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. In his eight years with San Francisco, Owens missed only seven regular season games. He has averaged over 10 touchdowns per season and over 1000 receiving yards. His average gain per reception is 14.5 yards.
Together with the signing of defensive lineman Jevon Kearse, the Eagles have landed, what many agree to be, the best defensive and best offensive player available in the 2004 off-season. While holes remain that still need to be filled prior to the opening of the 2004 NFL season, particularly at the cornerback, linebacker and reserve running back positions, it appears that the Eagles will once again be considered the favorite in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl in January 2005.