Cincinnati Bengals: No To T.O, Yes To Antonio Bryant

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 06:  Antonio Bryant #89 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tries to get away from Everette Brown #91 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 6, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals needed a wide receiver desperately, and their needle looked to be pointing in Terrell Owens direction. Chad Ochocinco openly campaigned for the 14-year veteran to join the Bengals ever since the Pro Bowl. But alas, they decided that the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Antonio Bryant was the better fit.
The deal is worth $28 million over four years, and he can gain an extra million through incentives, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy. Official word from the team isn't expected until tomorrow. Everyone knew the Bengals needed a deep threat at receiver after the Chris Henry tragedy, and Bryant and Owens had emerged as the top two candidates.
Bryant made a visit to the Bengals team facilities on Tuesday, but left town without a deal. Rumors surfaced that the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins were also interested.
The contract is very similar to the one given to Laveranues Coles last year. We all know how that one turned out; I am very surprised by the move. Yes, the 6’1" Bryant is the tall receiver QB Carson Palmer craves (or at least according to Coles), and has big play ability, averaging over 15 yards per catch over his career. But this guy isn’t a Pro Bowl talent.
Two seasons ago, Bryant caught 83 passes for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns with the Buccaneers. This was by far his best year. In 2009, he was effected by a knee surgery that repaired torn cartilage, and his production dropped to 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Not exactly eye-popping numbers for a guy set to make seven million dollars a year.
The fact is, for his eight-year career, he has averaged fewer than four TDs a game and a measly 710 receiving yards—not worth the money he's getting.
The 29-year-old Bryant was drafted by Dallas in 2002, and has also played with the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers in addition to the Bucs. Last year he received a franchise tag from the Buccaneers and was paid $10 million for the one-year deal.
Owens arrived Tuesday night and visited the team on Wednesday, tweeting his happiness on the way out. Now it looks like the Bengals will not sign him.
They could have had a guy with a Hall of Fame caliber career. They could have had a guy that is a home-run threat on any given play. They could have had a guy that has averaged over 10 TDs and 1,068 yards per season over his 14-year career (Not to mention T.O. would have come at a bargain bin price).
Sure he saw a drop in production with the Bills in 2009 (829 yards and five TDs), but who was his quarterback? Ryan Fitzpatrick. Every Bengals fan knows what happens when he is your QB. Critics thought Ochocinco was washed up after a dismal 2008 with Fitzpatrick behind center: This year he was once again a Pro Bowler.
They also could have had a guy that has proven time and time again that he can destroy a locker room at the drop of a dime. But last year he was a model citizen with the Buffalo Bills. He bit his tongue every time a reporter laid the bait. He was finally showing signs of maturity.
In the end, all of Ochocinco’s public campaigning for T.O. went for naught. Two alpha dogs were prepared to share the ball and spotlight. Such is a rarity among the diva’s that are big play wide receivers in the NFL.
It appears that the Bengals flirted with Owens to appease Ochocinco, and possibly for leverage on Bryant. It also looks like internal discussions regarding a possible run at Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall were a tactic to knock down the expectations of both Bryant and T.O.
Maybe Bryant goes onto to have a stellar career as a Bengal. The problem is that questions surround Bryant’s health and overall production. The questions regarding the “look at me” side of T.O. were answered last year. The production and health subjects were never in question.
Bengal fans are left with 99 other questions regarding the passing game, but T.O. ain't one.

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