It is official. Red Bryant is no longer a Seattle Seahawk. He becomes the latest in growing line of beloved players and clear team leaders that the Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been willing to move on from. Lawyer Milloy, Lofa Tatupu, Matt Hasselbeck, Michael Robinson all belong on that list. Bryant, however, is coming off one of his best seasons. This parting is for slightly different reasons than the others.
The numbers on ProFootballFocus.com can help put the Bryant move into perspective, both his quality of play, and some clues about why he will be more valuable to another team. Consider these facts:
Bryant was the 7th-best player on the Seahawks defense last year with a +7.5 PFF rating
He was the 4th-best run defender, with a +10.6 rating
Both numbers were the best of his career
Bryant finished 15th in the NFL among 4-3 DE for overall rating, and 11th in run rating
His snap totals since 2010: 291…724…641…488
Of course, the other important number is 30. As in, the age he will be in April. The Bryant puzzle cannot be solved without looking at other players. Start with Michael Bennett.
Bennett was the 2nd-best player on the Seahawks defense last year with a +24.2 PFF rating
He was the 3rd-best run defender (+12.0), after Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel
The overall rating was the best of his career, and the run defense rating was the 2nd-best
Bennett has equaled, or beaten, Bryant’s career-best +10.6 run defense rating every year as a starter (3 straight years)
Bennett was the 5th-best 4-3 DE in the NFL overall, and 3rd-best run defender
In a year when Bryant’s snaps dropped precipitously, Bennett totaled 617
Some have suggested that Bennett is not big enough or well-equipped to take over for Bryant. They forget that it took Dan Quinn convincing Pete Carroll to switch a player as big as Bryant to the 5-technique defensive end in the first place. Bennett is the prototypical size for it, and is a far more versatile defender who is a threat as a run defender and a pass rusher.
We talk so much about his pass rush prowess that his excellence in run defense is ignored. He had 10 tackles for loss last season, according to TeamRankings.com. He ranked 5th in the NFL in that number the year before when he was a starting defensive end in Tampa, where he had a whopping 18 TFLs. That was the same number Aldon Smith had that season, more than Clay Mathews, Ndamukong Su, and Geno Atkins. Seahawks fans have still not seen the best of what Bennett can bring if fully utilized. Give him another 100 snaps, and watch what he does.
That is not even taking into account other options on the team that can play a role. Greg Scruggs has a ton of untapped potential. I was talking to him last year before he got hurt, and he asked me how much I thought he weighed. I told him around 280. He smiled, and said he was over 300 lbs, and that he can put on more weight without losing much quickness. There are reports that he is now around 315 lbs, and was already a disruptive presence his rookie year.
There is little reason to expect Jesse Williams to be healthy enough to contribute, but if he somehow is, that is another player who could make an impact at Bryant’s old position.
It is tough to see a player as respected and as good as Bryant move on, but the time has come. He will get picked up by another team, paid what he is worth, and always be loved by Seahawks fans. There are worse fates.