By: Steve Balestrieri
A lot of eyebrows went up in New England with the news of Sunday night that the Seahawks may cut DL Red Bryant in a cap saving move to re-sign DE Michael Bennett.
Most Patriots fans remember the team in 2012 tried hard to woo Bryant away from Seattle and made a serious offer before Bryant finally decided to stay put, where he won a Super Bowl this February over the Denver Broncos.
“The Patriots were interested and I definitely was listening. I thought it was a great opportunity for me, and the likelihood of me going there was high,” Bryant said.
Bryant decided to stay in Seattle citing family reasons, “I feel like my situation here, it was great for me and my family, and that’s what it basically came down to …my familiarity with Seattle, and the guys I’m playing next to,” he added.
Now a lot of analysts are saying that the Patriots will again be in the bidding (although expected to be much lower) and should be a favorite to pursue and to land Bryant once and if…he is released. Pump the brakes on that talk; it may not be in the cards this time either.
Bryant ended up signing a 5 year deal worth $35 million and is an $8.5 million dollar hit against the cap this season, by releasing him prior to June 1st; the Seahawks will save around $5.5 million.
On the Plus Side Versatility/Leadership:Bryant who will turn 30 in April, is a 6’4, 323 two-gap, run stuffer who plays mainly a 5 technique DE in Seattle’s complex base defense. With New England he would project to be an interior DT. But he has the versatility to play really anywhere if the Patriots chose to mix things up.
Bryant played in 46 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps this season but was in on only 18 snaps in the Super Bowl as Pete Carroll went for a high octane pass rush against Peyton Manning and the Denver offense.
A defensive captain and unquestioned leader in the locker room, Bryant has always been a very positive role model for the younger players in the Seattle defense. Anyone who has spent time around the Hawks all rave about the respect he has among his peers. There could be little argument that he would fulfill a similar role here with the Patriots young defense, much like Andre Carter and Vince Wilfork currently do.
The thoughts of a healthy Wilfork, Kelly along with Bryant, Armstead and Siliga inside will make the Patriots run defense woes of 2013 seem like a distant memory.
On the Minus Side, Cost/Age/Roster: Although the market for Bryant should be much less costly this time around, he still won’t come too cheaply because there are plenty of teams (Jax/GB among others) who need help along the DL and Bryant is still performing at a high level. So don’t expect anyone to sign him for a veteran’s minimum.
But turning 30 this season, this is the time when big guys like he, Wilfork and Tommy Kelly begin to show their age somewhat. Wilfork prior to his season-ending injury was not playing his normal stout game. Could he have already been hurting? Possibly, but age could be a factor as well. With the latter two already on the roster, it may not make the most sense in a long term perspective to add another 30 year old body into the mix at the DL.
And with Wilfork, Kelly and CFL signee Armond Armstead all recovering from injuries this season and expected to be back as well as Sealver Siliga who played well down the stretch, the landscape for the interior line is different from when they initially attempted to sign Bryant in 2012. That year, after failing to land Bryant the Patriots signed Jonathan Fanene who had previously undiagnosed knee woes and never took the field.
Worth A Look, But Look to the Draft: The Patriots are nothing if not thorough in their preparation and especially when it comes to talent evaluation. They will most certainly kick the tires on Bryant, since they were so high on him in 2012 and one can imagine the rotation of DL with him, Wilfork, Kelly and Siliga inside being a nice one to watch.
The NFL is a copy-cat league and Seattle’s defensive rotation of keeping fresh legs on the field is something a lot of teams, including the Patriots may emulate. But with the Patriots salary cap situation still a work in progress; this may not be the time to go after Bryant. Although the team did make a big impression on him two years ago:
Asked how the Patriots tried to “sell him”, Bryant in a piece from Mike Reiss in 2012, “”It wasn’t so much a sell, as you know you’d have an opportunity every year to be playing for a championship,” he said. “You understand with that organization, the history that comes with it, and it’s a specific type of player that they like. I was honored to be one of those guys.”
He added, “I just feel like they don’t have to sell the Patriots. You know going into it the stability, from ownership on down. That alone was definitely enough for me to listen.”
But another factor to consider and a big one this season is the NFL Draft. The draft is full in 2014 with big, talented run stuffers that will come much cheaper than Bryant in May. And with the fiscal considerations in mind, I think Bryant won’t be wearing a Pats jersey in September.
Now if the team gets some cap relief from the Aaron Hernandez contract…that may change a lot of things, both in this situation and others.