The Seahawks are expected to release veteran DT/DE Red Bryant, FOX's Alex Marvez reports. The move is a difficult one -- Bryant is a leader in the locker room and on the field, frequently giving impassioned post-game speeches and regularly setting the tone and pumping up his teammates by staring down the opposing bench or tormenting the opposing crowd.
Nonetheless, Bryant's role had lessened this year in Seattle's heavy defensive line rotation and move to more three-man fronts, and his cap hit of $8.5M in 2014 was going to be pretty steep (Seahawks will save $5.5M against the cap, factoring in Red's dead money). This is one of those moves that John Schneider and Pete Carroll likely hate to make, but must do for the sake of keeping the core group of young elites together. It's actually a fairly similar situation to last year's decision to release Michael Robinson despite his great value as a leader and mentor to younger players.
Bryant played on 46% of Seattle's defensive snaps this past year, and while he saw action on 51% of snaps versus the power-run heavy Niners in the NFC Championship Game, he only played 18 snaps in the Super Bowl while the Hawks faced the pass-heavy Broncos. With his reported imminent release, he'll likely test the free agency waters before agreeing to any reduced deal with Seattle. At that point, if interest is tepid, perhaps he'll be willing to return to Seattle at a more cap friendly deal. Time will tell.
Assuming we've seen the last of Red in a Seahawk uniform, the Hawks do have some options at their disposal. Greg Scruggs was reportedly up to about 295 prior to tearing his ACL last summer and his length (6'3, 35" arms) and athleticism on the edge would be an interesting dynamic to test. On the other side of the coin, Jesse Williams' knee is apparently healed and he'll likely challenge for a spot on the DL rotation. Williams played 5-technique in Alabama's three-man front his junior year before moving to nose tackle his senior year, and some had said that he was better as an edge setter and disrupter against tackles than he was as a run-plugger against guard-center. Williams too has some interesting attributes in terms of athleticism and strength, so he's an option.
A third option could be for the Seahawks to re-sign veteran DT Tony McDaniel to a modest deal (assuming he doesn't get tons of interest on the FA market considering his age), and kick him out to the edge in Red's role. McDaniel played both at the nose and at defensive end as part of a rotation in Miami's defense prior to signing with Seattle this past year, and his specialty is disrupting at the point of attack and driving the offensive line back or anchoring against double teams. McDaniel also has Red's supreme length on the edge at 6'7, 310 pounds, so it's an interesting option that would cost the club significantly less.
Finally, Seattle could obviously look to free agency or the draft to fill Red's run stopping base five-technique role. They could also use Michael Bennett as a defensive end on base downs. While Red's been key to Seattle's run defense over the past few years, it's worth keeping in mind that most 4-3 defenses operate with a 285-odd pound defensive end on the strong side.
In terms of a leadership vacuum, I am not worried. Seattle still has strong leadership on the defensive side of the ball in Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Mebane, and Bobby Wagner. All four of these players are intense and emotive on the field, and players follow their lead. K.J. Wright has become more of a leader as well, and assuming Michael Bennett returns with the money freed up by this release, the veteran pass rusher can assume a leadership role as well.
Still, sad to see such an entertaining and exciting player leave.
The Seahawks have not yet confirmed the move (nor have they confirmed the Sidney Rice release), so stand by.