Bengals replace Houshmandzadeh with Coles

CINCINNATI – All the Cincinnati Bengals needed was one day to replace their top receiver. The Bengals agreed to a four-year deal with former Jets receiver Laveranues Coles on Wednesday, a day after T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle as a free agent and suggested that Cincinnati wasn’t sincere about trying to keep him around. Coles got the opposite impression. ‘The Bengals were very aggressive right from the start in talking to us,’ Coles said, in a statement released by the team. ‘And when a team makes you feel really wanted, that’s a factor you’re not going to ignore. They said, ‘Let’s get this worked out,’ and we did.’ The Jets let the 31-year-old receiver leave as a free agent last week, restructuring his contract to make it easier. Coles had another year left on his deal, but wanted a multiyear extension. As part of a compromise, he became an unrestricted free agent and the team didn’t have to pay $6 million that was guaranteed him this season. ESPN reported that the deal with Cincinnati was worth $28 million, another indication of how badly the Bengals wanted him. Coles also visited Buffalo last week. ‘Clearly, Laveranues gives our passing game another proven weapon,’ coach Marvin Lewis said. ‘He’s been durable and reliable, with high production in catches, yards, yards-per-catch and touchdowns. He’s also a passionate player, a guy who will bring a very positive chemistry to our locker room.’ In the past two days, the Bengals shored up two glaring needs. They re-signed running back Cedric Benson to a two-year deal on Tuesday, when Houshmandzadeh was being introduced in Seattle. The two of them were the only bright spots last season in an offense that finished last in the league. The Bengals could have used their franchise tag on Houshmandzadeh, who said repeatedly last season that he was willing to stay if he got a long-term deal. By using the tag on kicker Shayne Graham, the Bengals opened the way for him to leave as an unrestricted free agent. Houshmandzadeh visited Minnesota and Seattle, and also got a multiyear offer from the Bengals. ‘If Cincinnati wanted, they could have had me,’ Houshmandzadeh said in Seattle. ‘They wanted me, but at their convenience.’ His departure left Chad Ocho Cinco and Chris Henry as the two most experienced receivers. The Bengals quickly focused on Coles, who caught 70 passes for 850 yards last season and led the team with seven touchdown catches. He’s replacing one of the NFL’s most reliable receivers – Houshmandzadeh had 112 catches in 2007 and 92 last year, even though Carson Palmer was sidelined for most of the season by an injury to his passing elbow. Palmer has recovered from the partially torn ligament and tendon in the elbow and is expected to be back to full strength. Coles’ career high is 91 catches in a season. ‘I’m coming off a pretty good year, but I know I can do better,’ he said. ‘Anytime you come into a situation with a quarterback like Carson Palmer, you’re going to think you can bump up those numbers a little more.’ He’ll be teamed with Ocho Cinco, who has two years left on his contract and has unsuccessfully lobbied for a trade. Ocho Cinco threatened to sit out last season, then relented after he realized the Bengals were going to keep him. Coles also threatened to sit out last season unless he got a long-term deal. The Jets had the final two years of his contract guaranteed in a good-faith move to satisfy the receiver, who was a team captain in 2007 and a fan favorite during his second stint with the Jets.