Antonio Bryant saga strange from the start

How do you explain signing a major free agent and then cutting him before he plays a game?

In one word: strange.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been known to do odd things with personnel over the years. But signing receiver Antonio Bryant to a four-year, $28 million contract in March and releasing him five months later before the regular season is near the top of the list.

There were red flags with this signing from the beginning.

Bryant had offseason knee surgery and never looked right in minicamp. I covered Bryant in 2005 when he played with the Cleveland Browns and remembered thinking at the time that something wasn't right. He didn't look nearly as explosive.

It turns out Bryant's knee never healed properly. The Bengals rested him during a portion of minicamp and were very cautious with him during training camp. Then the organization got eerily quiet when questioned about Bryant's progress -- more red flags -- and the rumors began to swirl.

Cincinnati ended speculation by cutting ties with Bryant on Sunday. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, $8 million of Bryant's contract is guaranteed. Between Bryant and Laveranues Coles, the Bengals have wasted a lot of money at wide receiver. Both signed $28 million contracts and neither lasted more than a year in Cincinnati.

But the Bengals were fortunate in several ways.

First, Cincinnati will not take a salary cap hit because it's an uncapped year. An educated guess is the Bengals may have stuck with Bryant to see how he recovers had there been a stiff cap hit for the life of the contract.

Second, signing Terrell Owens and drafting Jordan Shipley made Bryant expendable. Both receivers have looked superior to what Bryant showed in Cincinnati with a bad knee.

Owens' and Shipley's production will likely make Cincinnati forget about Bryant. But that doesn't make Bryant's signing and quick release this year any less strange.