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Palmer gets his man

Updated: 8:15 p.m.

As a recruiter, Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is now officially better than former Bengals receivers coach Hue Jackson, the guy that brought him to USC.

After making a pitch to his head coach for wide receiver Laveranues Coles over the weekend, Palmer then made his own throw to the long-time Jet to fill the void left by T.J. Houshmandzadeh's departure with another big-time wide receiver. Palmer got his man for the next four years in a deal that was announced Wednesday.

"I told him to just give us a chance," Palmer said. "There's so much negativity about (the Bengals) out there. We may not have a private plane or an indoor facility, but there is no other place you'd rather be when you're winning, and when guys do come visit here they're always surprised.

"Our fans are great because they stick by us when we lose, but the feeling here when you're winning is special. He gives us a chance to get there with our young receivers and I'm just glad we've got him."

The Bengals may not have a jet or a bubble, but they've got exactly what a 31-year-old receiver wants after nine seasons of 631 catches:

A Pro Bowl quarterback with a big arm.

In just one season, with his good friend on the 2002 Jets, Chad Pennington, Coles has been with a starting quarterback that averaged more than seven yards per throw. Palmer has done it three times. Or every season he's played every game.

"We've talked about what we can do," Palmer said of Coles. "And we've talked about what he does so well and that's throwing it to the back shoulder. He's got guys worried about his speed and he gets in front of them for 15, 20-yard plays, and then after a while on one he'll just burn right by you."

Eyebrows, no doubt, are going to be raised on this one. The Bengals fretted about Houshmandzadeh's age (32 on Sept. 26), but then gave a guy that is three months younger (Coles turns 32 Dec. 29) a similar offer.

Actually Jackson, now the Ravens quarterbacks coach, has coached both Coles (in Washington) and Houshmandzadeh, and speaks highly of them both.

"I never compare players and I'm not going to say (Coles) is T.J. in Cincinnati because what T.J. did over the last couple of years is unparalleled," Jackson said Wednesday night. "But if you're looking to replace him with a tough guy, a great guy, and great player who goes all out all the time and is a pure football player, you couldn't have a got a better guy in the league than Laveranues."

Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski sees Coles as a tough, savvy receiver who runs well and can play all three spots.

"We needed to replace a good, experienced player with another good, experienced player and we've done that," Bratkowski said. "He's very serious about his job."

Palmer, who has been saying his elbow is fine and that he'll be ready for offseason workouts, is perking up after a tough couple of days absorbing the loss of Houshmandzadeh.

"It's tough. He meant so much more than stats," Palmer said. "He was an extension of the coaching staff and we're going to miss him. But we have to get over it because we're not getting him back any time soon. If there's any guy in the league like T.J., it's Laveranues. I don't know him well, but I've been watched him play this year and he attacks routes and does a great job going up to get the jump ball."

Coles is to appear at a 10:30 a.m. Paul Brown Stadium news conference Thursday, but in a Bengals press release he said, "The Bengals were very aggressive right from the start in talking to us and when a team makes you feel really wanted, thats a factor youre not going to ignore.

"They said, 'Let's get this worked out, and we did. I'm excited. I'm coming off a pretty good year, but I know I can do better. 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."

Those numbers last year were 70 catches for 850 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns. Scouts say he's more of a vertical threat than Houshmandzadeh and that Coles still has explosive run-by-you speed that he has always hoped a QB could exploit.

But Bratkowski says those labels are pretty much products of their 40-yard times coming out of college, when Coles lit the lamp at 4.3 seconds.

"Laveranues can go underneath and T.J. has gone deep some," Bratkowski said. "You can't compare them like that. I don't compare them at all."

"Clearly, Laveranues gives our passing game another proven weapon, said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in the release. "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."

Palmer saw Coles up close Oct. 12 at the Meadowlands last season, one of the 12 games Coles missed. Coles tied for game-high in receptions (eight), and added 61 yards in New York's victory. In 2007 at PBS, Coles led all receivers with eight catches, 133 yards, and two touchdowns in the Bengals victory.

"I watched most of Brett's games this year," said Palmer of quarterback Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. "When I first heard that Laveranues was out there as a free agent, I said, 'This guy can run.' "

On Friday the Bengals offered Houshmandzadeh a four-year deal that could have grown to $30 million by hitting an escalator. On Wednesday, it was reported Coles took four years, $28 million but there were no details on guarantees or escalators.

What is clear is that Coles is being paid on par with his man on the other side, Chad Ocho Cinco, a guy that brings 612 catches to the Opening Day table. But Bratkowski thinks Coles can line up anywhere and he's coming from a similar system.

(Ocho Cinco couldn't be reached for comment.)

"He played the slot in Washington and he understands the advantages of playing inside and that makes us feel comfortable," Bratkowski said of Coles' two seasons in D.C. several years ago. "He's played weak and strong (sides) and our system is somewhat familiar to what the Jets are doing now as far as strength calls and formations and that's a positive."

Also a positive for Bratkowski is Coles' willingness to work with the young receivers, of which they have plenty and are headed by last year's top draft picks, second-rounder Jerome Simpson and third-rounder Andre Caldwell. It looks like Caldwell has a bond with Coles right away because he'll probably be asked to give up No. 87 for the vet.

"I think he'll be great for our young guys now that T.J. is gone," Palmer said. "I can't wait to get it going."

Bratkowski doesn't want to compare them, but here's a replay of the tale of the tape with Coles and Houshmandzadeh:

Coles DOB: Dec. 29, 1977

Housh DOB: Sept. 26, 1977

Coles bests: 91 catches with 2006 Jets, 1,264 yards with 2002 Jets, seven touchdowns with '01 and '08 Jets, 14.7 yards per catch with '01 Jets and '03 Redskins (for seasons with at least 59 catches).

Housh bests: 112 catches in '07, 1,143 yards in '07, 12 TDs in '07, 13.4 yards per catch in '04

Coles career: Nine seasons, 631 catches, 8,095 yards, 12.8 yards per catch, 44 TDs

Housh career: Eight seasons, 507 catches, 5,782 yards, 11.4 yards per catch, 37 TDs

Coles '08: 70 catches, 850 yards, 12.1, seven TDs

Housh '08: 92 catches, 904 yards, 9.8 yards per catch, four TDs.

Jackson, though, says he's still a better recruiter than Palmer. Palmer was down about losing Houshmandzadeh. But when told Palmer was happy getting Coles Jackson said, "He ought to be."

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