NFL: Bengals sign WR Antonio Bryant to 4-year deal
CINCINNATI — Antonio Bryant is the latest complementary receiver to Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati.
Bryant signed a four-year deal with the Bengals on Friday. He ostensibly replaced Laveranues Coles, who spent the 2009 season with the team, but then was released.
Bryant comes off a season in which he complained about a diminished role in Tampa Bay’s offense. After recovering from surgery for torn cartilage in his left knee last year, Bryant had 39 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns.
The previous year, Bryant revived his career after being out of football in 2007, finishing with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns. Tampa Bay placed the franchise tag on Bryant, which assured him a salary of $9.88 million last season.
Then he became a free agent, and the Bengals, who also have contacted Terrell Owens, signed him one week into free agency for about $28 million over four years.
Cincinnati is adamant about improving a passing game that ranked 26th last season.
“The players will notice the difference,” offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said on the team’s Web site. “It’s not as big as the changes we made in the running game last year, but the passing game is getting the same kind of attention we gave the running game in the offseason last year.
“We’re looking to match our quarterback’s strengths with our receivers in order to get bigger plays downfield.”
Bryant, who won the Biletnikoff Award at the nation’s top collegiate receiver while a sophomore at Pitt, has been with four NFL teams. His career has been hampered by a history of headstrong behavior — most notably a post-practice tirade in 2004 directed at then-Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, in which Bryant threw his sweaty jersey at the coach.
Bryant was sent to anger-management counseling and eventually traded to Cleveland, where he had his first 1,000-yard season in 2005 despite falling out of favor with the coaching staff. San Francisco, desperate to add a top receiver, signed Bryant in spite of concerns about his character.
In December 2006, Bryant was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
On Friday, the Bengals also signed receiver and kick returner Chris Davis, a third-year pro from Florida State. The former Tennessee Titan sat out last season after an injury settlement.