- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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This much we know: Bryant is an upgrade over former Bengals receiver Laveranues Coles.
But by how much remains an interesting topic of debate.
After recently agreeing to a four-year, $28 million contract, it's clear the Bengals are hoping for the 2008 version of Bryant, who caught 83 passes for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns. The $7 million average per year, which is similar to Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin's contract, only adds to the pressure for Bryant to produce.
But what if Cincinnati gets the 2009 version of Bryant?
Last season Bryant had the franchise tag with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fought through a knee injury and underachieved with 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns. Coles had four more receptions (43) and one more touchdown (five) than Bryant last season and was released by the Bengals.
Bryant has qualities in his game that should help the team. He has pretty good quickness and size, which quarterback Carson Palmer likes, and toughness to go over the middle and make catches in traffic. That element has been missing in Cincinnati since the departure of T.J. Houshmandzadeh after the 2008 season.
This will be a new role for Bryant as the No. 2 receiver. The Bengals desperately need a legitimate threat opposite Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco, and Bryant has a solid 15.3 yards per catch average for his career that should strike fear in most defenses.
If Bryant has a bounce-back season in 2010, adding him to the mix and possibly drafting a receiving tight end would give Cincinnati the offensive balance that it needs.
Can new receiver Antonio Bryant jump-start the Cincinnati Bengals' passing game?This much we know: Bryant is an upgrade over former Bengals receiver Laveranues Coles.