WR agrees to four-year contract worth about $13M

Pursued by several teams right from the outset of free agency, unrestricted veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh decided to rebuff all suitors and return to the Bengals, ESPN.com has confirmed.

The fourth-year veteran reached a contract agreement Wednesday and will sign a four-year deal that is worth about $13 million.

Houshmandzadeh is coming off a breakout season, one in which every significant receiving total topped his aggregate statistics from the first three years of his career. He had 73 catches for 978 yards and four touchdowns, obviously all career-high numbers, while starting in 13 games.

"It was tempting to get out and really test the water as a free
agent, but in my heart, what I wanted was to be in Cincinnati,"
Houshmandzadeh told The Associated Press. "I told my agents that, and we were able to get a good deal done.

"I'm glad to have it all off my mind so I can start getting
focused. I think the Bengals are going to have a great season, and
I want to be a part of it."

Entering the 2004 season, Houshmandzadeh had only 62 catches for 720 yards and one touchdown in three seasons. He had started in only six games in three years.

The former Oregon State player moved into the lineup when Peter Warrick was slowed by a leg injury and made the most of his increased playing time. He was also an excellent complement for Bengals star deep threat Chad Johnson, with whom he played in college.

Houshmandzadeh and Johnson were both chosen by Cincinnati in the draft.

But while Johnson developed more quickly, it took Houshmandzadeh into his fourth NFL season to be regarded as more than just a No. 3 receiver.

For whatever reason last season, Houshmandzadeh became a reliable playmaker. He was a clutch receiver for first-year starting quarterback Carson Palmer, an effective receiver in the intermediate areas, and a guy who consistently added yards after the catch. After posting just seven catches of 20 yards or more his first three seasons, Houshmandzadeh had 17 such receptions in '04.

Palmer had lobbied publicly, right after the conclusion of the season, for the Bengals to make a strong effort to retain Houshmandzadeh.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.