On Wednesday, the Cincinnati Bengals reportedly solved their riddle, "mirror, mirror on the wall, which wide receiver is the most reasonable of all." There was some reaction against the signing, mostly because Antonio Bryant is too much of an unknown. We've heard about his baggage. We've heard about his injury. And quite frankly, does a receiver that's recorded two 1,000-yard seasons deserve a $28 million contract over four years? Is this another deal where the Bengals are risking their necks for a guy that could prove to bite them? Terrell Owens, for all he's done in this league, wouldn't have been the risk Bryant is. For one, Owens was good for a one-year deal and the Bengals could reset and see where they stood. With Bryant, they won't have that luxury. With Bryant, they're saying to themselves that he's a longer-term solution and that he'll earn his keep by recording career highs.
And yes, for $28 million, you'd better have at least one season where you record more than 83 receptions and at least 1,250 yards receiving. Take out Bryant's career year in 2008, his numbers average out to 41 receptions, 634 yards receiving and three touchdowns per season -- and he averages 13 games played per season. And we're not even including his 2007 because he was released by the 49ers after reported "clashes" with then head coach Mike Nolan. Over that summer, he failed a drug test and was finally reinstated into the league on September 17. By that time, no team wanted him and retirement seemed likely until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered Bryant a minimum contract. Since 2008 was his career year, he was franchised by Tampa Bay and offered up a terrible season.
Should we argue that Bryant is being rewarded for one career year that occurred two years ago? Images of Antwan Odom flash by.
Is Bryant a risk? I absolutely believe so. Have the Bengals improved from Tuesday until Bryant signs? I admit, they have. At this point, I also think he's a big upgrade over Laveranues Coles. But that's speculation. I'm assuming here. I'm willing to be patient on Bryant though and see what he does on the field and reserve judgment until then. If he improves on his career year from 2008, then we'll be euphoric because the results will only push the Bengals that much closer to the playoffs. But if he doesn't, calls of a bust will surface very quick and we'll have another Laveranues Coles situation on our hands.