The release of the official NFL transactions came and went today without Seattle making any moves. In fact, few moves are made official during the NFL Combine, with teams otherwise occupied, so it’s not a surprise that there was no news today on conjectured/reported releases of Sidney Rice and Red Bryant (or, for that matter, two other players many figure Seattle may also cut — tight end Zach Miller and defensive end Chris Clemons).
Seattle has to make some moves to clear up cap space to re-sign some of its own free agents — specifically, defensive lineman Michael Bennett and receiver Golden Tate — as well be able to make other moves.
Observers have speculated for months that some combination of Rice/Miller/Clemons/Bryant might have to go as a result.
On the surface, Bryant might seem the most surprising, since he was the captain — as elected by his teammates — of a defense that ranked among the best in NFL history this season.
But the financial reasons why the team would release Bryant are obvious — his salary would count for a $5.5 million hit against the salary cap next season.
He also turns 30 on April 18, and the team might think it can replace what he brings more cheaply.
Bryant’s specific role, recall, is as an early-down run defender, and edge-setter on the end. 2013 draftee Jordan Hill, for instance, might be able to play that role, or maybe Jesse Williams, also taken in last year’s draft, or maybe Greg Scruggs, who missed the 2013 season due to a knee injury (Williams., at 6-3, 325, comes the closest to replicating the size of Bryant, who is 6-4, 323 — Hill is 6-1, 303 and Scruggs is 6-3, 284). Free Agency could also fill the void.
It was a role that also meant Bryant saw the field the least in 2013 of any of the team’s regular seven-man rotation on the defense line.
Here are the snap counts and percentage of defensive snaps played for the main seven players on the defensive line:
Michael Bennett, 600, 57.5
Chris Clemons, 570, 54.7
Cliff Avril, 551, 52.8
Brandon Mebane, 531, 50.9
Clint McDonald, 530, 50.8
Tony McDaniel, 528, 50.6
Red Bryant, 481, 46.1
Obviously, injuries factored in just slightly in those numbers for some players, as well, as Clemons missed the two first two games, Avril the first game, and McDonald was not on the roster for the first game. Bryant also missed one game — at Atlanta — due to injury, and McDaniel also essentially missed one game (Giants) due to illness.
Still, numbers speak to two things — the depth of the DL, which was such a key part of Seattle’s success this season in allowing all of the players to stay fresh throughout the season and also allow the team to mix-and-match personnel groupings without missing a beat; and that in the specific case of Bryant, that the Seahawks have likely decided that given their other needs, they can’t afford to pay that much to a player who is on the field for less than half the snaps.