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February 28, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Seahawks officially release Sidney Rice and Red Bryant

The Seahawks today made official long-anticipated, and already well-reported, moves to release receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant.

Rice was due to make $17.5 million over the next two years, and a salary cap hit of $9.7 million for the 2014 season (with 2.4 million in dead money, meaning an additional  cap savings with this move of $7.3 million. Bryant was due to make $17.5 million over the next three years and has a cap hit of $8.5 million for 2014 ($3 million in dead money, saving the team $5.5 million). He was also due a $3 million bonus if he was on the roster as of March 14, all part of a five-year deal he signed prior to the 2012 season that would have been worth a total of $35.1 million ($14.9 million was guaranteed).

Each of the moves is being made to clear up cap space to allow the team to re-sign free agents such as Michael Bennett and Golden Tate, and pursue others. The two moves combined will clear up about $13 million in cap space for the 2014 season, when the salary cap could  be around $133 million  total. The moves will  also help clear up cap space in the 2015 season when the team will have to extend quarterback Russell Wilson (with extensions for safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman also likely to come by then).

The releases of Rice and Bryant — a defensive team captain the last two years — are the first two significant moves made by the Seahawks as they begin re-tooling the roster to defend the Super Bowl  title they won earlier this month, beating the Denver Broncos 43-8.

The release of Bryant also means just three players now remain who were with the team prior to coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider taking over in 2010 — the others are defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, center Max Unger and punter Jon Ryan.

UPDATE — The NFL’s official listing of Rice’s release includes the designation that he “failed physical.” Rice suffered an ACL injury on Oct. 28 at St. Louis and it was unclear when he would be ready to return to the field.

Here is the team’s official press released on the two moves in which it says it is announcing the moves now to give each a head start in finding new homes when the free agency period begins March 11:

The Seattle Seahawks have released defensive end Red Bryant and wide receiver Sidney Rice, the team announced this afternoon.

“We want to thank both Red and Sidney for their effort, commitment and contribution to the Seattle Seahawks over the last few years,” said Executive Vice President/GM John Schneider. “These are extremely tough decisions, but we wanted to give them a head start on free agency. We wish them well in the future.”

Drafted by Seattle in the fourth-round (121st overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft as a defensive tackle, Seattle moved Bryant to end in 2010 where he started 54 games.

Bryant played in 64 games with 55 starts, tallying 121 tackles (78 solo), 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, one touchdown, seven passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Over the past three seasons, he started 47 games, missing one due to injury. He also played in five postseason games with six tackles (two solo).

Signed by Seattle as an unrestricted free agent on July 29, 2011, Rice played in 33 games with 31 starts for the Seahawks with 97 receptions for 1,463 yards and 12 touchdowns over three seasons.

His 2011 season was cut short after being placed on injured reserve (concussion) and he missed the final five games of the season. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2012 and led the team in receptions (50), yards (748) and tied Golden Tate in touchdowns (7), one shy of his career-high set in 2009. Last season, Rice had 15 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his knee at St. Louis (10/28/13). He was placed on injured reserve on October 30.

Originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the second-round (44th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft, Rice has played in 81 games with 57 starts, posted 243 receptions for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns. He has also played in five postseason games with three starts, posting 17 catches for 298 yards and four touchdowns.

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