Selected in the fourth round of the 2008 draft out of Texas A&M, Red Bryant was a middling defensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks until new head coach Pete Carroll and defensive line coach Dan Quinn decided to make him perhaps the NFL's all-time biggest run-stopping defensive end in 2010. Bryant started 54 games at that new position through the 2013 season, helping Seattle's defense become the NFL's best and playing a key role in the Seahawks' 2013 postseason run that ended in the franchise's first Super Bowl title.
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But the team decided to release him on Feb. 28, freeing up $5.5 million in salary cap space. And on Saturday, it was announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Bryant to a four-year, $17 million deal. The move reunites Bryant with Gus Bradley, now Jacksonville's head coach, who was Seattle's defensive coordinator from 2009 through 2012.
Bryant played in 561 snaps last season, including the playoffs and Super Bowl, as opposed to 734 in 2012 and 724 in 2011. Carroll and Quinn, now Seattle's defensive coordinator, moved other players into Bryant's role from time to time, and the big man had trailed off in his play late the season before. He was set to make $4.5 million in base salary for the 2014 season, with a $3 million roster bonus if he was with the team at the start of the new league year.
“When I first met Coach Quinn, he was my D-Line coach my second year in the league," Bryant said in late January during Super Bowl media week about his transformation from tackle to end. "He [was] extremely hard on me. He expected more. He was tough on me. My first two years in the league, I didn’t play as much. We were 4-12, 5-11 and I might’ve played in 10 games my first two years. I used to always ask him, ‘What do I need to do to get on the field?’ Something that stuck with me 'til this day was he told me, “I see better than I have.” Basically, he was just telling me that when I show him that I deserve to be out there, I’ll be out there. And I took that to heart. That’s the one characteristic that he has is just being straightforward and honest, and I think that played a big part in my success so far.”
Bryant amassed 121 tackles (78 solo), 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, one touchdown, seven passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries through his Seattle career, but his effect on that defense had more to do with his pure presence as a run-stopper than his pure stats. Never a pass-rusher per se, Bryant was able to, at his best, shut down running plays to his side with impressive regularity.
Tyson Alualu played both left and right end for the Jags last season at 6-foot-2 and 294 pounds. Now, Bryant will bring additional size (6-foot-4 and a very conservatively listed 323 pounds) to that position.
The deal given to Bryant reflects concerns about his conditioning and consistency. He's a good short-term fit and he's playing for a coach who understands how to use him, but it's kind of a wash as to whether he'll finish this contract. We'll find out soon how much Bryant was buttressed by the excellence of those around him on Seattle's line.