Coles wore an orange Cincinnati Bengals cap with his dark suit, wrinkle-free white shirt and two diamond earrings to his introduction Thursday as the team's major offseason acquisition. The Bengals said that Coles was the receiver they had targeted if they couldn't get receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to stay.
They signed Coles quickly — one day after Houshmandzadeh left — and didn't waste time turning him into a diamond-studded example of how they really were willing to spend money to improve.
"Enough's been said about, 'Well, they don't do this and they don't do that,' " coach Marvin Lewis said. "Well, that's not really true ... So we need to kind of get rid of this bad perception."
Coles agreed to a four-year deal that reportedly is worth up to $28 million. He represents something new for a team that slipped back into its bad, old form last season, finishing 4-11-1 with an offense that ranked last in the league.
Losing Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals' top receiver last year, was a major setback. They declined to use their franchise tag on him and instead let him become a free agent. Houshmandzadeh got the impression the Bengals weren't sincere in their offer, and fans were upset when he signed with Seattle.
Coles was aware that he would be the team's first choice if the job opened up. The Jets, Broncos, Titans and Bills also showed an interest, but Cincinnati was the front-runner because Coles was intrigued by the prospect of playing with quarterback Carson Palmer.
Palmer became a lobbyist, calling Coles to encourage him to come to Cincinnati.
"I think he had a great deal to do with it," Coles said. "Anytime a quarterback of his caliber takes his time out to give you a call and lets you know how important he feels it would be to come to a team he plays for, I felt that was something great. I felt it was something I needed to take a close look at."
Palmer also had talked to Houshmandzadeh, who was his most dependable receiver. His phone call to Coles got a better result.
"It's very rare that you get a quarterback give you a call and tell you how confident he is in his ability and how accurate he is and how he thinks he can make you better," Coles said. "Anytime you've got a guy with that type of confidence, you've got to be open to being someone around him."
Coles wasn't the only one taking calls from Palmer, who was lobbying the front office to get him signed once it was clear Houshmandzadeh would be leaving.
"Carson's been beating me up since this thing got started Friday morning about Laveranues," Lewis said. "We got it done, and he helped out in the deal, because he is concerned that he has the right weapons and guys that we can count on all the time.
"That was the one thing in T.J.: We had a consistent player. And we had to make sure we found one as consistent."
Houshmandzadeh had 112 catches in 2007 and 92 last season, when Palmer partially tore a ligament and tendon in his passing elbow and missed 12 games. Houshmandzadeh's reliability and his precision in running routes made him the top third-down target no matter who was the quarterback.
Coles caught 70 passes from Brett Favre for 850 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski watched film of the duo and saw that Favre would throw the ball before Coles made a cut, knowing that the receiver would be in the right spot.
"As he and Brett got further and further along in the season, you could see that Brett was anticipating and that the ball was coming out before he even finished the route," Bratkowski said. "That's the trust level that we talked about."
While Houshmandzadeh was more of a possession receiver who lined up in the slot, Coles has played at a wideout spot and is better at getting yards after he makes a catch. His versatility gives the Bengals a few more options.
"What Laveranues brings to us and how he's different, it's kind of fun," Bratkowski said. "Let's see how it all unfolds as we go forward here through the spring workouts, through training camp and through the season. I think it's kind of exciting what he's going to bring."