The curious case of the Bengals and Antonio Bryant turned out to be more odd than curious, and came to an end when the receiver was released on Sunday. In short, the Bengals cut Bryant — who was plagued by lingering knee problems last season — roughly five months after signing him to a four-year, $28 million deal that included $7 million in guaranteed bonuses.
The Bengals gambled with $7 million to find out if Bryant was healthy, something they arguably should have known. In the end he wasn’t.
But this story only gets more interesting when you think back to how it came to be.
One of the players who ultimately made Bryant expendable (don’t forget we’re in an uncapped year of the salary cap) is Terrell Owens, who visited the Bengals as a free agent in March. The Bengals ultimately decided to sign Bryant, only to come back around and sign Owens in July. To many, that move was the first red flag in the team’s concern over Bryant.
Given the preseason play of Owens, along with Jordan Shipley in the slot and fellow rookie Jermaine Gresham in the middle of the field, the Bengals look as if they won’t miss a beat without Bryant. Reading between the lines in this quote, Carson Palmer is very content with his current weapons:
“I’m feeling more and more comfortable every time I throw a pass, whether it’s in seven-on-seven, full practice or the games,” Palmer said about the Bengals’ no-huddle offense. “I love what Jermaine is doing. I love what Terrell is doing and Chad is playing like he believes he’s the best receiver in the league.”
In hindsight, imagine if the Bengals had decided to retain T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The first replacement was Laveranues Coles, who like Bryant, signed a four-year, $28 million contract. Coles lasted one season with Cincinnati, but like Bryant, was jettisoned well before his contract had run its course.
Not signing Houshmandzadeh turned out to be an expensive endeavor for the Bengals, one that ended with a lot of money spent on Coles and Bryant, and with T.O. as a Bengal.