The Cincinnati Bengals shocked the National Football League today by releasing veteran wide receiver Antonio Bryant a mere five months after picking him up from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signing him to a four-year, $28 million contract.
Bryant is now the hottest commodity on the free-agent marketplace right now.
An accomplished and talented receiver like Bryant can provide quality depth for teams in need of receivers.
Teams like, say, the San Diego Chargers.
While the San Diego Chargers may have a solid one-two punch in Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates, the absence of Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson still leaves a hole to be filled.
As it stands, the Chargers wide receiver depth chart will most likely look like this, come time for final cuts:
1. Malcom Floyd
2. Legedu Naanee
3. Craig "Buster" Davis
4. Josh Reed
5. Seyi Ajirotutu
Now, breaking down this depth chart reveals something to be desired.
Floyd and Naanee have locked up their spots by putting on spectacular performances in the preseason so far. After that, though, things get a little less interesting.
Buster Davis, while he is playing well, has been hit by injury again this offseason, and has thus been used sparingly. Davis is in the last year of his rookie contract, and will likely only be cut if he suffers serious injury.
Josh Reed was brought in off waivers from Buffalo and has done a decent job. While his hands are inconsistent, he brings veteran presence to a group of young receivers.
Seyi Ajirotutu is the only one showing real promise below Legedu Naanee. He has made some very athletic receptions, and ultimately should be used more often than the two above him, providing that the rookie learning curve isn't too rough on him.
In the end, the Chargers have two viable options (three if you include staying put, but that one doesn't require discussion).
The obvious option here is to sign Antonio Bryant. He is a valuable weapon who could round out a squad that doesn't quite have enough firepower.
To counter this, the Chargers could either cut Buster Davis or Josh Reed. All arrows in this situation would point at Josh Reed getting the axe, considering the potential that the Chargers still see in Craig Davis.
The other option would be to place Seyi Ajirotutu on the Practice Squad, and pursue Laveranues Coles, the veteran receiver recently released from the New York Jets.
Coles would bring the same things to the San Diego Chargers that Antonio Bryant would. He brings a solid receiving option, averaging 12.8 yards per catch on his career. He also brings experience. In a group in which the average NFL experience is four years, Coles could teach the younger players what they need to know to make an impact.
Ultimately, AJ Smith will likely stay put with the group of receivers that he has now, considering how high he seems to be on them. However, in breaking down the San Diego Chargers' current wide receiver situation, it seems like the smart decision would be to do some roster shifting to accommodate Antonio Bryant, or, at the very least, Laveranues Coles.