Terrell Owens is still under contract to the 49ers after the receiver apparently missed a deadline for voiding the rest of his contract.
Owens, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, did not file the necessary paperwork quickly enough this week to become an unrestricted free agent, according to the NFL Management Council. Owens' agent, David Joseph, will file a grievance.
"We voided the contract. There's an issue now as to whether or not the void was effective," Joseph said.
Owens was among several players required to file by a new deadline, which was moved up 10 days for players who signed their contracts before the league's 2001 collective-bargaining agreement went into effect.
Cleveland receiver Dennis Northcutt made a similar mistake. The Browns said Northcutt's agent failed to void the final three years of his contract by Feb. 19, keeping him with Cleveland.
By missing the deadline, Owens is under contract to San Francisco through 2006 - and the 49ers get an unexpected bonus in what is shaping up to be a difficult offseason. The 49ers also released three veterans on Thursday: running back Garrison Hearst, offensive tackle Derrick Deese and defensive lineman Sean Moran.
"I have spoken to the NFL Management Council and they have confirmed that Terrell Owens will not be among the players listed as an unrestricted free agent," general manager Terry Donahue said.
The mixup does not necessarily mean Owens will play for the Niners next season. The team expected to lose him in free agency for practically nothing, so San Francisco might use Owens' contract status to work out a trade.
Owens is due to make $17.7-million in base salary over the next three seasons, including $5.3-million next season - a relative bargain for one of the league's best receivers.
He was counting on a big payday in his first venture on the free-agent market, hoping to land a signing bonus of more than $15-million from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta or a handful of other teams with the cap space to sign him. Owens has spent all eight of his pro seasons with the 49ers.