By Brady Henderson
Earlier this month, Red Bryant was celebrating the Super Bowl victory that he helped deliver as the captain of the defense that led Seattle to its first championship.
He's now an ex-Seahawk, released Friday along with wide receiver Sidney Rice as the team announced moves that were reportedly coming.
Defensive end Red Bryant, who was released by the Seahawks Friday, has played only for Seattle since he was drafted by the team in 2008. (AP)
"We want to thank both Red and Sidney for their effort, commitment and contribution to the Seattle Seahawks over the last few years," general manager John Schneider said in a press release. "These are extremely tough decisions, but we wanted to give them a head start on free agency. We wish them well in the future."
Consider this the latest reminder of how harsh the business side of the NFL can be. While Rice's release was a predictable end to his Seahawks career given his high salary and durability issues, parting ways with Bryant – their vocal leader and a key member of their top-ranked defense – is the type of gut-wrenching move that is often necessary in a league with a salary cap.
"It's a replacement business," Bryant said before the Super Bowl when asked about teammate Clinton McDonald's financially-motivated release at the end of training camp, "and what he experienced is something that we're all going to experience."
Releasing Bryant and Rice clears up at least $12.8 million in salary cap space for 2014, possibly more depending on how they are designated. Because they were released, Bryant and Rice are free to negotiate and sign with other teams before free agency begins next month.
According to the NFL's transaction report, Rice was released with a failed-physical designation as he is coming off a season that was cut short by a torn ACL, the latest injury in a career that has been marred by them. At times during his three seasons with the Seahawks he showed the talent that enticed Seattle to give him a five-year, $41 million deal, but he had a hard time staying on the field as the injuries continued to pile up.
Rice, 27, was scheduled to count $9.7 million against Seattle's salary cap in 2014, a prohibitive amount for a player who had missed 15 of 48 regular-season games since 2011.
"Thanks for a wonderful experience!" read part of a post on Rice's Instagram account Friday.
Bryant, 29, was a Seahawk through and through. A fourth-round pick in 2008, he was one of four players who predated the 2010 arrivals of Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. He's the son-in-law of Jacob Green, a member of the Seahawks' Ring of Honor. And as a 325-defensive end, he embodied the unusual way in which Seattle had assembled the defense that led the league in scoring the past two seasons.
Bryant began his career as a defensive tackle, and his his transition to a run-stopping end was so successful that he became a defensive captain and earned a five-year, $35 million contract in 2012. But he was scheduled to count $8.5 million against the 2014 cap, which Seattle apparently deemed too high a figure for a player who was limited to early downs.