SEATTLE — Less than two years ago, when a new coaching staff suggested he change positions, Red Bryant figured he was on his way out of Seattle.
Instead, Bryant just became the highest paid player on a Seahawks defense he once feared had no place for him.
On the opening day of NFL free agency, Bryant and the Seahawks agreed to terms on a new deal Tuesday, one that will pay him $35 million over five years, including $14.5 million in guaranteed money according to an ESPN report. His signing, along with the re-signing of running back Marshawn Lynch, means the Seahawks were able to retain their two most important free agents.
And the fact that Bryant, 27, was one of Seattle’s biggest priorities in free agency shows just how far he has come in the last two years. A fourth-round pick in 2008, Bryant spent his first two seasons as a little-used defensive tackle who was perhaps best known as the son-in-law of Seahawks legend Jacob Green. When head coach Pete Carroll took over following the 2009 season, he and then-defensive line coach Dan Quinn approached Bryant about moving from tackle to defensive end. With a listed weight of 323 pounds, Bryant hardly fits the mold of a prototypical defensive end, and knowing that he figured Carroll was getting ready to release him.
“When they asked me to move to end, I really thought I was getting ready to get cut,” Bryant said last season.
Instead Bryant found his perfect role, a run-stuffer who, while not one to pile up sacks like most defensive ends, is one of the most important players on Seattle’s roster. Through six games in 2010, Bryant was a big reason why the Seahawks ranked No. 2 in the NFL opponent yards per carry. The defense fell off considerably after Bryant went down with a knee injury, and Seattle finished the year ranked 13th in that category. In 2011, with Bryant healthy for 16 games, the Seahawks held opponents to just 3.8 yards per carry, which was tied for fourth best in the league.
Bryant has also turned himself into quite the valuable commodity on special teams, where he blocked four kicks last year, including two in one game. He also had two interceptions last season, including one in Chicago that he returned — high-stepping and all — for a touchdown.
Bryant’s signing doesn’t mean Seattle is done trying to improve its defensive line. The Seahawks are believed to be interested in former Houston Texan and No. 1 pick Mario Williams, though Buffalo, which hosted Williams in a visit Tuesday, is making strong push to sign Williams before he can visit with another team. Seattle is also setting up a visit with former Tennessee Titans defensive end Jason Jones, according to his agent.
In addition to keeping Bryant, Seattle also agreed to a deal with backup linebacker and special teams standout Heath Farwell. After signing with the team in October, Farwell recorded a league-high 21 coverage tackles in just 11 games.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.