Antonio Bryant was one of the worst decisions the Bengals have made in recent memory. It's right up there with Mike Brown taking over operations when his father died, hiring David Shula who had no experience as a head coach and passing over on Bill Walsh when Paul Brown resigned from the sidelines. The decision to sign Bryant wasn't just a bad decision, it was rated as the third-worst free agency signing in the past 25 years according to ESPN.
In 2008, Bryant caught a career-high 83 passes for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns, production which ranked eighth among wide receivers in receiving DYAR that season, prompting Tampa Bay to place the franchise tag on him the following offseason. A left knee injury that required surgery in the preseason limited Bryant to just 39 receptions in 13 games, and the Buccaneers let him test the market. The Bengals overlooked Bryant's knee injury, run-ins with coaches, the law and the league's substance abuse policy and signed the 29-year-old to a four-year, $28 million contract that included nearly $8 million in guarantees to be the deep threat opposite Chad Ochocinco. Bryant's knee gave him some problems during the OTAs, but he managed to pass his physical at the start of training camp. That optimism would be short-lived, as the knee would keep Bryant sidelined throughout the preseason, with the Bengals terminating his contract, and eating $8 million, last August.
Signing Bryant was a mistake, but it wasn't even the worst decision. After allowing Bryant to practice during the first session of training camp, his eligibility on the Players Unable to Perform list was eliminated. The PUP would have opened a roster spot for the Bengals and allowed them to reexamine the Bryant solution after six weeks during the regular season. After that the team could have put him on Injured Reserve and what they had the following season. Instead, he was ineligible for the PUP list and the Bengals released him soon after they signed Terrell Owens.
(h/t Stripe Hype)