Among the reasons the Browns won only six games in 2005 is they lacked a quick-strike offense. Rookie Braylon Edwards did not become a full-time starter until the game against Tennessee on Nov. 6 and his season ended Dec. 4 with a torn ACL.
Another big-play threat, Kellen Winslow Jr., never got on the field because of injuries from his motorcycle accident. Winslow worked like a fiend during the season in hopes of being in football shape when training camp begins in July.
The fact is, though, Winslow and Edwards are uncertain factors for 2006, and that makes the decision on what the Browns do about potential free agent Antonio Bryant an important one.
Bryant caught 69 passes for 1,009 yards and four touchdowns. But he also dropped seven passes. Some were critical, and the Browns are weighing that as they decide how to proceed.
General manager Phil Savage says he and Coach Romeo Crennel would like to re-sign Bryant, but they will not throw a pile of money at him. They might make an offer and let him test the market with the thought he won't make more elsewhere.
"I don't know anything about next year, and that's the honest truth," Bryant said. "I'm a different kind of dude. I just focus on the task at hand. I had to learn you can't focus on things you can't control.
"Would I like to be back? Sure, I would. I would love to play here. I like the way things are developing. But if I can't control it, there's no need for me to worry about it."
Bryant was regarded as a hothead when the Browns acquired him in a trade with the Cowboys last year. Bryant had a dispute with Cowboys coach Bill Parcells and made the rash decision to throw a jersey at Parcells. Not long afterward Parcells traded him to the Browns for Quincy Morgan. Morgan did not make it out of the Cowboys' 2005 training camp and he is now playing for the Steelers.
Bryant has not had such blowups with the Browns, or if he has they have been so minor they have been shrugged off. Quarterbacks Charlie Frye and Trent Dilfer are in his corner; they praise his route-running ability, and he has been open often to have more than 120 passes thrown in his direction.
"As far as the team goes, he's got his little quirks individually, but I think he wants the team to win," Crennel said. "I don't think he's done anything to go against the team."
Bryant caught nine passes for 123 yards in the final game of the season. He said that game, especially since the Browns rallied to beat the Ravens 20-16, helped erase the stinging 41-0 loss to the Steelers the week before. He caught four passes for a team-high 50 yards against Pittsburgh.
"When you lose 41-0, there is no way you can be satisfied," Bryant said. "We couldn't anything going, not even a spark. It took us a while just to get a first down.
"When the fourth quarter rolls around and you're not in better position, the frustration turns to anger, but you have to contain yourself. I think I've matured as a man in the four years I've been in this league. You learn to play for other people and not just yourself. You learn what a privilege it is to play in this game. If you don't take advantage of it, you're going to lose out."