I have a theory. Just a theory. There's no basis behind it, just a thought. No information other than what's already been reported. Nothing. Here's that theory.
The Bengals likely knew that Antonio Bryant wouldn't be ready for the regular season. With the uncertainty about his future this year, Cincinnati needed to force some certainty so they can figure out their wide receiver roster. That's only fair, right? With Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell locks to make the team, the debate raged on final two spots. That being said, I believe Quan Cosby is now a lock to make the team for his special teams contributions and Jerome Simpson will battle off Matt Jones and Maurice Purify to be the team's sixth wide receiver. When Bryant was in the mix, we had to force two statements that included the word "if".
So instead they released Bryant, having already reportedly given him $6.95 million. Cincinnati released Bryant, making him a free agent, giving him time to rehab his knee to the point that he'd be finally be 100% healthy. When he's healthy, the Bengals could sign Bryant back giving the team fresh legs, which would only help the team down the stretch, especially considering that injuries at the position could weigh heavily. This is, of course, basing the entire theory that the Bengals and Bryant planned on this.
It wouldn't be the first time that the Bengals played with the roster by cutting guys to make room on the roster for others. In 2007, Antonio Chatman was released before the season opener to make room on the roster for Dan Santucci, anticipating a tough fight against the Baltimore Ravens. The following week, Chatman was resigned and tight end Nate Lawrie was waived. Granted, if he's healthy, Antonio Bryant could just sign with the team that gives him the biggest contract offer. And my theory, which seems like a stretch at best, would be highly dependant of Bryant cooperating with it. Maybe Bryant will feel grateful for making $7 million for doing absolutely nothing, and signing maybe a one or two-year contract at a lesser value. That's probably something he wouldn't go for.
But in reality, it doesn't seem that's a workable theory at all.
Bryant's agent, LaMont Smith, fully intends to have the Bengals pay the $1.55 million on Bryant's base salary he's due. This would seem like a pointless exercise, considering the base salary isn't guaranteed and Bryant's agent should know that. However, if Bryant is hurt, then the Bengals could be in trouble because you're not allowed to release a guy only due to injury. Bryant and his agent could file an injury grievance against the Bengals.
That being said, Pro Football Talk theorizes other teams that could have interest with Bryant.