SEATTLE, WA - Nearly four years removed from a torn Achilles injury that momentarily derailed his career, defensive end Kerry Hyder's resiliency has put him back on the NFL map. Suffering the injury in the first preseason game of a year predated by a breakout campaign with the Lions, Hyder witnessed his rise to prominence fade in the blink of an eye.
But adversity is an old friend of the Austin, Texas native. Signing as an undrafted free agent with the Jets in 2014, it took him almost two full seasons to finally see action in a regular season game. Eventually earning a longer look with Detroit in 2016 following a dominant preseason performance, he put up 8.0 sacks and 36 combined tackles with a fumble recovery.
Then the injury came, forcing Hyder to miss the entirety of the 2017 season. He would return the following year, in what would be his last with the Lions, and wound up seeing just 153 defensive snaps before making his way to Dallas in 2019. With the Cowboys, he received a slight uptick in snaps and showed flashes of what made him effective in Detroit, which caught the attention of the 49ers.
San Francisco took a chance on him, planning to utilize him as a rotational piece in a defensive line that dominated its way to a Super Bowl appearance the year prior. But injuries decimated the unit right out of the gate in 2020, most notably stripping them of second-year star Nick Bosa for the entire season, as well as Dee Ford and Solomon Thomas. As a result, Hyder was then thrown into a starting role and he seized every bit of the opportunity presented to him.
Under then defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Hyder proved to be an excellent edge defender for the 49ers when they needed it. Earning an overall grade of 68.6 from Pro Football Focus, he posted a career-high 8.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles in 14 starts.
Hyder, 29, was rewarded for his efforts in free agency last month, but not by the 49ers. Instead, he opted to sign with the division rival Seahawks on a two-year deal that includes a voided third year.
Speaking with members of the Seattle media Thursday afternoon, Hyder was asked about his expectations heading into free agency for the fourth time in his career following his productive season.
"I mean, it's a big difference when you have a career year versus a not-so career year," Hyder laughed. "I didn't have a lot of different expectations, I just knew going in I was in a better position than I was the year before and I just wanted to get to the best situation no matter the price. You know, I've learned over time you just want to be in this position where guys want you there and they want you around, so that's what I was looking for."
With the Seahawks, Hyder is joining a deep defensive line group that has had a ton of work put into it this offseason. Though most of the moves they've made have focused on retaining pieces from 2020, such as defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Benson Mayowa, they believe they've added a new dimension to their defense with Hyder.
Since the departure of longtime starter Michael Bennett, the strong-side defensive end position has been a revolving door of sorts in Seattle. Recently inhabited by the likes of L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green, it hasn't been a position that's boasted a ton of production—at least from a pass-rushing standpoint. Hyder will aim to change that, specifically citing Bennett as someone the Seahawks mentioned in their discussions about his role in 2021.
"That's a guy I've looked up to in the league, and a guy I've kinda modelled my game after," he explained. "That's one of the reasons why I always pictured myself in Seattle, 'cause I can kinda see myself in that same type of role as Mike."
When news broke of Hyder's deal with the Seahawks, reports flooded in about their intentions to play him in a similar role to Bennett's. This includes working on the interior defensive line at times, which the versatile Hyder confirms he expects to do on occasion this season.
Looking back on the success he had in 2016 and 2020, there was one key constant in both of those seasons: defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Hyder credited Kocurek for being "instrumental in believing" in him, and noted similarities in his budding relationship with Seahawks assistant and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt.
"He has the same belief in me, that's why he brought me there," Hyder nodded. "I just wanted to be somewhere where they believed in what I could do and thought I could add to their group."
And that's exactly what the Seahawks are hoping to accomplish with the addition of Hyder. After a season filled with inconsistent defensive line play, particularly in the first half, they believe Hyder is the final piece that can put them over the top towards sustained success out of the unit.