Tip Sheet notes: Pricey pursuits

Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who told a Seattle-area radio station in the offseason that he ran in the 4.4s at the combine in 2001, even though records indicate he wasn't invited, hasn't exactly been a favorite of this space.

But in opting to allow Houshmandzadeh to go free and sign with the Seattle Seahawks in the spring of 2009 rather than trying to keep him around even at an exorbitant price, the Cincinnati Bengals graphically and financially demonstrated the perils of free agency.

To replace Houshmandzadeh with a suitable No. 2 opposite Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals invested $9.75 million in salary and bonuses for Laveranues Coles in 2009. Coles was a disappointment, catching only 43 passes, and was waived this spring. In place of Coles, the Bengals signed Antonio Bryant. They already have spent nearly $8 million for a seven-year veteran who has only twice caught more than 60 passes in a single season. At times, Bryant has been a royal pain.

So how bad is Bryant? The Bengals almost certainly will use him as their No. 3 wide receiver in the slot, hoping he will give them a presence in the middle of the field. To supplant Bryant opposite Ochocinco, the Bengals this week signed Terrell Owens. They essentially spent just $2 million, although T.O. can earn another $2 million if he maxes out on all his incentives.

The point is that Cincinnati has spent nearly $20 million trying to replace Houshmandzadeh, who averaged 98 catches during his final three seasons with the franchise.

We're not advocating the money might have been better spent just retaining Housh for a while, because he was no day at the beach either. But the botched handling of the wide receiver position certainly magnifies the significance of making safe and sage decisions on players.

Otherwise, those decisions could come back to bite a club.

Speaking of bites, quarterback Carson Palmer, who lobbied hard for the addition of Owens after becoming disillusioned with Bryant at times in the offseason, might want to call Jeff Garcia or Donovan McNabb and inquire about their dealings with Owens. What's that old saying about "be careful what you wish for"? Palmer might learn -- no, might live -- the meaning this year.