Two teams are going to the Super Bowl, and 30 teams are thinking about Terrell Owens.
Well, maybe not exactly, but at least indirectly. Change is imperative in the offseason, and nobody represents change more than the forgotten-but-not-gone Owens.
Still technically property of the Philadelphia Eagles, Owens will have a new address next season. In that regard, he is like many other players. And after the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers will be like all the other teams.
Win or lose, they will change their lineups. Free-agent defections dictate change, but it is more than a necessity. Change is also the desire of any team trying to get to a Super Bowl.
Stability has its rewards. The Seahawks and Steelers spent time assembling the core of their Super Bowl teams. Nobody in the NFC has been coach of his team longer than Seattle’s Mike Holmgren. Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher is dean of all NFL coaches.
But constantly tweaking the lineup is the blueprint for improvement. Any team that stands pat stands to lose. The Eagles had been improving for years, getting to the NFC title game four years in a row. Not until they added Owens did they get to a Super Bowl. This year didn’t work out, so there will be more change.
Famous first words, not without merit. As much as the Eagles suffered as Owens wore out his welcome, they benefited in 2004. Now Owens must start over in a new place, and if he has a lick of sense left — debatable, perhaps — he will be on his best behavior for at least a year. He has no chance to earn what he thinks he’s worth if he isn’t a model citizen.
Most teams won’t think twice of touching him, but every team is bound to think at least once, if to do no more than reject him out of hand. Owens represents the ultimate in change, and every team knows it must somehow change.
The Seahawks have been in the playoffs three years in a row. The Steelers have been in three AFC title games in the past five seasons. So both have been knocking on the Super Bowl door longer than most also-rans. Yet neither counted entirely on improvement from within this season.
The Seahawks plugged rookie linebackers Lofa Tatupu and LeRoy Hill into their starting lineup.
The Steelers started rookie tight end Heath Miller.
The Seahawks had eight new starters on defense.
Last year, the Steelers’ five offensive linemen never missed a game as the team went 15-1 and fell one game short of the Super Bowl. But two of the five were let go in free agency because the Steelers correctly figured on upgrading.
The Seahawks signed free-agent receiver Joe Jurevicius and he led the team with 10 touchdown catches.
The Steelers signed free-agent receiver Cedric Wilson and he helped beat Cincinnati and Denver in the playoffs with touchdown catches. Plaxico Burress led Steelers receivers in touchdown catches last season and was let go in free agency.
The Seahawks signed free-agent pass rusher Bryce Fisher, and he led the team in sacks.
The Steelers switched from power to speed in their running game, turning to undrafted second-year man Willie Parker ahead of veterans Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley.
Change can come from within, as it did in Pittsburgh with the return from injury by Pittsburgh guard Kendall Simmons and nose tackle Casey Hampton or in Seattle with linebacker D.D. Lewis.
More often, change comes from outside, via the draft, trade, or free agency.
Tight end Miller was picked 30th in the first round of the draft. Linebackers Tatupu and Hill were selected 45th and 98th. All played immediate, productive roles.
The Seahawks didn’t like losing cornerback Ken Lucas to the Panthers, but they signed free agents Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon to make up the difference.
They didn’t like losing leading sacker Chike Okeafor to Arizona, yet they led the league in sacks after adding Fisher from St. Louis and Chuck Darby from Tampa Bay.
They were saddened when former No. 1 draft choice Koren Robinson had to spend time in alcohol rehabilitation and was released, but they haven’t missed him.
The Steelers let cornerback Chad Scott and linebacker Kendrell Bell go last offseason. Scott was a former No. 1 draft pick, Bell a former No. 2. The defense got along fine without them.
The New England Patriots won three of the past four Super Bowls and made significant changes every time.
They added running back Corey Dillon and nose tackle Keith Traylor before the 2004 season and drafted defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and tight end Ben Watson. They used Traylor for one year, and he played a big role.
Before the 2003 season, the Patriots signed free-agent safety Rodney Harrison and linebacker Rosevelt Colvin and traded for nose tackle Ted Washington. Then they released their all-pro safety Lawyer Milloy the week before the season started.
Before the 2001 season, they signed running back Antowain Smith and drafted defensive lineman Richard Seymour and offensive tackle Matt Light, both of whom started most of their rookie seasons, including the Super Bowl.
Whether the Steelers or Seahawks prevail, more change is certain. Even league MVP Shaun Alexander of Seattle could become a free agent, though not likely. In Pittsburgh, receiver-punt returner Antwaan Randle El is scheduled for free agency and the Steelers are expected to need a replacement for Bettis, who is contemplating retirement.
Will either the Seahawks or Steelers consider Owens? Ironically, both got to the Super Bowl after losing top receivers Robinson and Burress, so they demonstrate that a player of Owens’ caliber isn’t necessary. Yet conversely, both teams could find room for help at the position.
When Owens officially hits the open market, it will be interesting to see which teams are willing to even consider taking the chance. It’s liable to be a bigger market than you expect.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Gronk has successful surgery
ProFootballTalk: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski had successful surgery on his back, but Mike Florio says this was expected.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.