Lendale White came in, and was a former Trojan. Carroll cut him a few weeks after acquiring him. T.J. Houshmandzadeh got cut in Carroll’s first camp despite having $6M left of guaranteed salary. He shipped off Aaron Curry and Deion Branch, and parted ways with franchise cornerstone, Matt Hasselbeck. No player can afford to rest on their laurels with this regime. Most people point to this reality as the retaining wall that will hold the players performance and behavior in place. And, for the most part, that should prove to be true.
Owens could come in here with a diva attitude and find himself back on the street in less than a week. In fact, Carroll would gain even more credibility from such a situation. The more complex scenario, and more likely, is that Owens comes in and works hard, saying all the right things. His talent may still be great enough to earn a spot on the team. He could wind up as the starting split end opposite Sidney Rice. The team may come to rely on him as they get off to a strong start, and vie for a playoff spot. Then, the game comes when Owens get targeted three times and gets one reception. The team loses. Maybe Matt Flynn misses Owens wide open during a crucial play, or even just overthrows him. What happens then?
History shows that Owens upper lip is about as stiff as a Jell-O. He will pipe up, especially if he has enjoyed some success and forgets where he was prior to the season. Maybe he says, or does, something that is disruptive enough that Carroll feels the need to suspend him. Only, this isn’t happening during training camp. This is happening after a dependency has been developed. This is happening when a team is needing to come together to fight through adversity. That is a scenario that Carroll has not faced with Seattle. I have every confidence that he’d do right by the locker room, but it is too late at that point. A season can be dragged down by that sort of side show. A roster is built like a Jenga tower. Taking Owens out early leaves a stable structure that can last. Being forced to take him out late, can bring down the whole thing.
Remember, Owens is not alone in having a history of wanting the football. Kellen Winslow Jr. caught 75 passes last year. He was not bashful about asking for more chances, and is facing a situation where he may get fewer in Seattle. Zach Miller was a Pro Bowl tight end before he got here, and amazingly kept his mouth shut while catching a career-low passes last season. He has to be expecting a rebound this year with a new quarterback and a more independent offensive line. Golden Tate has done a great job of showing maturity while suffering through two disappointing seasons. This is a make-or-break year. Will he really keep quiet if he is marginalized again?
These were all minor concerns before Owens arrived, but one selfish player can bring out the selfishness is others. Who is going to put Owens in his place? Who has accomplished more than Owens on this team? Rice may be the #1 receiver, but he has not been asked to be the team leader that way, or even the position leader. Baldwin has all the makings of a leader, but he was watching Owens play in the NFL when he was barely out of grade school. He might even have the conviction to speak up, but it is doubtful Owens would pay him any attention.
I have never met Owens. Reputations can be quite misleading. Carson Palmer, reportedly, spoke highly of Owens to Carroll. That matters. He did not appear to cause the same kinds of problems in Buffalo and Cincinnati that he did in his previous stops. However, neither of those teams chose to bring him back.
The team needs a red zone threat at split end. It is clear when watching practice each day. They need a physical receiver who can defeat press coverage and make tough catches with defenders around. Owens could be that guy, and more. Braylon Edwards could be that guy as well. He is 29, and already looks to be making an effort to mesh with the locker room. He had one of his best days of practice so far today. Perhaps, that’s the best contribution Owens can make. Bringing out the best in Edwards could help the Seahawks improve, and allow Carroll to cut Owens without damage. That’s my hope. This team is young, talented and easy to cheer for. Let them prove they don’t need players like Owens to become champions.