Bengals try for deal with WR Antonio Bryant

By JOE KAY,

AP Sports Writer


CINCINNATI (AP) Antonio Bryant’s agent said the receiver and the Cincinnati Bengals were “very close” to an agreement on Wednesday, a move that would likely preclude the addition of Terrell Owens.


For the second year in a row, the Bengals are trying to find a complement for Chad Ochocinco, the only receiver with appreciable experience on the roster. Ochocinco has lobbied to get Owens, who was in town on Wednesday to meet team officials.


Instead, the Bengals appeared to be closing in on Bryant, who visited a day earlier and left without a deal in place.


Agent Lamont Smith didn’t return a phone call on Wednesday, but told the team’s Web site that the sides were “very close” to a deal. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Bryant would get a four-year, $28 million contract.


The 29-year-old receiver had career highs with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns with Tampa Bay in 2008. He had torn cartilage in his left knee repaired during training camp last season, and knee problems limited him to 39 catches for 600 yards with four touchdowns.


Getting an experienced receiver was the team’s top priority in free agency. The Bengals lost T.J. Houshmandzadeh to free agency a year ago, and signed Laveranues Coles to a four-year deal expecting him to fill the gap. Coles struggled to blend in and was released after only one season.


After meeting with Bryant on Tuesday, the Bengals welcomed Owens, who has the same agent as Ochocinco and was interested in being paired with his friend in Cincinnati. He wasn’t their first choice, however.


The 36-year-old receiver’s production has dropped each of the last two seasons in Dallas and Buffalo. He flew in from the West Coast on Tuesday afternoon and had dinner with coach Marvin Lewis. He met with owner Mike Brown and assistant coaches on Wednesday.


Ochocinco was excited about the possibility of adding Owens, tweeting to him that they would be like Batman and Robin in Cincinnati. When he heard of the Bengals’ intensified negotiations with Bryant on Wednesday, Ochocinco tweeted congratulations and wondered if there was any way of still getting Owens.


After his visit, Owens thanked the team for its interest and tweeted Ochocinco: “I’m en route back 2 LA imagining wht WE could hv done 2gether!! Holy delta skymiles Robin! U talk about unstoppable!!”


The Bengals also need help at tight end. On Wednesday, they re-signed reserve tight end Dan Coats, who became a free agent when his contract expired at the end of the season. Coats played in all 17 games last season and caught 16 passes for 150 yards.


Updated March 10, 2010