Chad Johnson on the other side of the formation. He's also proven to be quite durable, suiting up for at least 14 contests every year since 2002. When the Cincinnati passing offense was really cooking not too long ago, he consistently moved the chains on third down and was a tremendous threat in the red zone – 28 touchdowns from 2005-07.
The Pros: While never blessed with the kind of natural talent his partner in crime Johnson has when with the Bengals, Houshmandzadeh worked himself into a Pro Bowler after being an afterthought seventh-rounder in the 2001 NFL Draft. He lives in the middle of the field, isn't afraid to give up his body to make a catch, and does it all with little fanfare. If the Bears are looking for a reliable short- and intermediate-range pass catcher so Devin Hester can concentrate on deeper routes, this might be a good fit.
The Cons: The Bears didn't get very much out of all the money they spent on Muhsin Muhammad in free agency, and Houshmandzadeh will also be past his prime if he indeed makes his way to the Windy City – he turns 32 years old in September. And even when he was younger, he never offered any degree of explosiveness as evidenced my his career average of just 11.4 yards per reception. As a matter of fact, he hasn't come up with a catch longer than 43 yards since 2004.
The Odds: Houshmandzadeh would be wise to cash in while he can since he'll be highly coveted this offseason and the situation in the Queen City is a mess, but it's hard to imagine the Bears being one of his hot-to-trot suitors.
The Pros: Not only is Bryant three and a half years younger than Houshmandzadeh, but he brings a wider array of skills to the table because he can be effective deep down the field. He packs a sturdy 205 pounds on his 6-1 frame, so he can handle all the routes and adds some run-after-the-catch ability. He also plays with a serious chip on his shoulder, which might not necessarily be bad thing on a receiving corps currently featuring a bunch of nice guys.
The Cons: Bryant's off-the-field concerns are well documented, which is why he bounced around from Dallas to Cleveland to San Francisco and finally to Tampa Bay in a five-year span. This past season was his last chance to prove he belonged in the league, so having a career year will do him well with such a thin crop of quality receivers on the free agent market. Does he finally "get it" at just shy of his 28th birthday, or is he bound to be a malcontent again once he has another big payday in his pocket?
The Odds: The Bears have gone out of their way to fill the locker room with people of high moral fiber, which might scratch Bryant off their list before he's even considered despite how good a player he is.
The VerdictBoth receivers have their flaws, with Houshmandzadeh's age and limitations sending up just as many red flags as Bryant's history and reputation.
One way or another, the Midway Monsters need a monumental talent upgrade on the outside, and the best-case scenario would be a solid veteran in addition to a Day-1 draft pick. Hester is not going to become the primary threat head coach Lovie Smith thinks he is, meaning he needs help – and he needs it in a hurry. Marty Booker is washed up, Brandon Lloyd is softer than a pillow, and Earl Bennett didn't catch one pass as a rookie.
While Houshmandzadeh is the safer choice even though he'll be expensive, Bryant is the way to go since has a higher upside going forward and won't cost as much.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Free Agent Fix: Housh vs. Bryant
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