So are the Rams really interested in controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens?
"Who's his agent? Drew Rosenhaus?" general manager Billy Devaney said. "Then my answer is, 'Next question.' "
That, of course, was a playful reference to Rosenhaus' "next question" series of answers during an infamous 2005 news conference on the front lawn of the player known as T.O.
In a more serious vein, Devaney gave a more revealing answer Saturday.
"I'm not going to get into specific names, but we've been talking about a lot of guys (at wide receiver)," Devaney said.
Not exactly a denial. And league sources later confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that the Rams indeed are interested in signing Owens to a free-agent contract. In fact, the sources said it's possible that Owens could be signed by early this week.
According to ESPN, the Cincinnati Bengals also are expressing interest in Owens. Cincinnati seemingly would be a more attractive destination unless St. Louis overwhelms him with a much better offer. The Bengals are a lot closer to the playoffs than the Rams. In fact, the Bengals won the AFC North with a 10-6 record last season before losing to the New York Jets in the playoffs.
Owens, who turns 37 in December, is nearing the end of a prolific yet star-crossed career and may want to finish it on a contending team with an established quarterback in Carson Palmer. The Rams, meanwhile, are breaking in a new quarterback, albeit a No. 1 overall pick in Sam Bradford, and have lost 42 of their last 48 games.
At this stage of his career, Owens remains a good player but is no longer a difference maker. Which explains at least in part why he is still on the market in late July. Without benefit of a strong supporting cast last season in Buffalo, Owens caught a modest 55 passes for 829 yards and five touchdowns as the Bills' No. 1 receiving option.
He is prone to drops, and some analysts and scouts feel he lacks the explosiveness off the line and down the field that he displayed earlier in his career. Those '09 receiving numbers were Owens' lowest totals in a decade except for his final season in Philadelphia (2005), when he was suspended and benched the final nine games of the season.
That season, Owens created a firestorm in Philadelphia when he said in a radio interview that the Eagles would be better off with Brett Favre at quarterback than Donovan McNabb. It was just the latest in a series of disruptive incidents from Owens — and the final straw for coach Andy Reid and team management and ownership. The suspension followed, resulting in the front lawn news conference, with Rosenhaus shielding Owens from reporters by answering "next question" to almost every query.
Despite his pass-catching prowess — Owens has been one of the league's most productive receivers for the past 14 seasons — he has worn out his welcome almost everywhere he's been. First in San Francisco, then Philadelphia and then Dallas. The only exception was Buffalo, where he spent only the 2010 season.
Although Devaney repeatedly has expressed confidence in the Rams' young and unproven wide receiver corps, the team is considering other options, including the possibility of bringing in former University of Missouri standout Danario Alexander for a visit and a physical.
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur both were on the Eagles' staff in 2004 and '05, Owens' two seasons in Philadelphia. Neither worked directly with Owens, although Shurmur was Philly's quarterbacks coach at that time.