Free Agent Fix: Housh vs. Bryant

The Chicago Bears need a playmaking receiver, and the two premier free agents available are T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Antonio Bryant. But which one of them would prove to be the better fit in the Windy City? Bear Report again goes to the tale of the tape to make a decision. Do you agree?

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

The Skinny: Arguably the best pure possession wide receiver in professional football today, Houshmandzadeh has averaged 89 receptions over the course of the last five seasons despite the presence of 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.

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

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.

Antonio Bryant

The Skinny: Oozing with potential since he was a Biletnikoff Award winner in college, Bryant initially slid to the end of the second round in the 2002 NFL Draft because of character concerns and has bounced around the league ever since. But he put it all together in 2008 after a year spent away from football, catching 83 passes for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns for a Buccaneers air attack that didn't exactly conjure up images of Air Coryell – remember he torched the Bears for 10 catches and 138 yards in Week 3. He had one of the best performances of the year in the NFL for a wideout against the Panthers, reeling in nine balls for an even 200 yards and a pair of scores, including one of the sickest TD grabs in recent memory.

WR Antonio Bryant
Doug Benc/Getty Images

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 Verdict

Both 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.

Judgment: Bryant

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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 and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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