If asked to use one word to describe free agent wide receiver Antonio Bryant,
you won’t find one that fits better.
Make no mistake, Bryant has talent. He’s one of only two players in history
(other was Randy Moss) to win the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore. He’s got
good size at 6’2. He garnered 1,000 yards receiving last season for a Browns
team that had nothing close to a prolific pass offense. He’s only 25 years old.
However, it is this same set of attributes that will result in Bryant being
paid pretty close to #1 wide receiver money this off-season. And a #1 wide
receiver Antonio Bryant is not.
Bryant is the type of player whose departure will cause an uproar with fans.
He made some big plays last season, and is one of just five players in franchise
history to post 1,000 yards receiving in a year. And the Browns haven’t exactly
been overstocked with talented pass receiving options since their return. To let
one go that we already had in tow will be incomprehensible to some.
What these people fail to realize is what Bryant cost us this past season,
and what he could cost us in the future.
If there was an official statistic for dropped balls, Bryant would be at the
top of the list. His inconsistency, not only with his pass catching, but his
route running and run blocking, has simply been too great to feel comfortable
counting on this guy at the ends of games. His drop late in the Detroit game
single-handedly cost us that game, and similar boners affected several others.
And for all the “big play” talk, Bryant scored just four touchdowns last year,
with a couple of those coming in garbage time.
There are other factors at play here as well, leaving his inconsistency
The Browns have a lot of money and hope invested into Charlie Frye and
Braylon Edwards. Do the Browns want millions of dollars invested in a guy that
has made a living squabbling with quarterbacks? A guy that Dallas ordered to
attend anger management classes as a prerequisite to joining the team? Do the
Browns want Braylon Edwards learning the NFL ropes on how to play the position
Additionally, the Browns already have a lot of cash invested into pass
catchers. Edwards and Kellen Winslow are two of the teams’ highest paid players.
Can a team that wants to win games running the football and playing stout
defense even afford to tie this much money up into pass catchers?
Antonio Bryant is going to want #1 wide receiver money, or close to it. And
someone will be stupid enough to give it to him. The whole X-Factor of free
agency is that it only takes one team to set the market for a guy. NFL careers
aren’t long. This is Bryant’s one chance to get paid, and he will look to do so.
You think he’s going to take a hometown discount to go play for a coach that
bad-mouthed him all year, and with what essentially amounts to a rookie
quarterback taking the helm in 2006? If so, I’ve got some land to sell you.
And therein lies the problem. In addition to wanting to get paid like a #1,
Bryant will want to get the touches of a #1 WR. That isn’t going to happen here.
The only reason Bryant was somewhat subdued in his behavior here was because he
was getting those looks. Bring Braylon and Kellen back into the picture, and
Bryant goes back to sulking, as he has time and time again in his career.
There’s no doubt Romeo Crennel has had a big hand in the decision to
essentially cut bait on Bryant, as reported this week by the Plain Dealer and
Akron Beacon Journal. Crennel’s in-season comments on Bryant were hardly
glowing, and he watched teams in New England and New York win Super Bowls
without any receivers as talented as Bryant. Bryant is representative of the
types of players Butch Davis brought in here, and we just sacrificed a full year
purging ourselves of those types. You go ahead and overpay the guy that looks
great on paper and makes a couple big plays. I’ll pay market for the guy that
makes tough first down catches, and is willing to do the little things to help
the team win.
The Browns will have to replace Bryant, and there are several intriguing
options out there in free agency. Preference one for me would be to bring Joe Jurevicius back home. His sure hands and ideal size would be the perfect
complement to our talented young wide receiver and tight end. Other options are
David Givens (NE), Brandon Lloyd (SF), Nate Burleson (Min), Koren Robinson
(Min), Kevin Curtis (StL), and Shaun McDonald (StL). All are unrestricted free
And while the draft is weak at the top at receiver, it’s reasonably strong in
the middle … most likely where the Browns would look to target a wide out.
Antonio Bryant has #1 wide receiver type talent, but his inconsistency and
attitude makes him a decent #2 or a very good #3. Yet, someone will pay him on
scale with his talent alone. And I hope that team isn’t the Browns.
A long-time contributor to The OBR, Rich
Swerbinsky has provided consistently insightful commentary on
the Browns, while never losing his fan perspective. Rich has now
branched out with his own website at SwerbsBlurbs.com, where he
and fellow fans offer takes on Cleveland sports and other