The Seahawks’ first move on the first day of NFL free agency was a big one.
The club also got an agreement from linebacker
“Our first concern is to take care of our team and take care of the guys that are unrestricted (free agents) on our team and fit that back together,” is the way Carroll had put it. “We really want to focus on the guys on our team, and I want that to be a strong message – that we believe the guys that we have put together here are the foundation of a championship team.”
And Bryant, who will turn 28 next month, definitely is a cornerstone player.
He came to the Seahawks as a fourth-round draft choice in 2008 and played in only 10 games in his first two seasons as a backup defensive tackle. But Bryant was switched to end in 2010, a move that allowed him to flip the switch on his career.
With Bryant manning the five-technique spot in Carroll’s first season as coach, the Seahawks’ run defense ranked second in the league entering a Week 8 game against the Raiders in Oakland. Bryant went down with a season-ending knee injury in that game and run defense followed, finishing the season ranked No. 21.
But Bryant not only returned last season, he was even better. In addition to registering 32 tackles, he intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown. On special teams, he blocked three field goals and a PAT.
As the season progressed, it became apparent just how important Bryant was to a Seahawks defense that would rank No. 9 in the league – only the sixth time in franchise history, and the first since 1997, that the Seahawks had ranked among the Top 10.
“He has been a big factor for us, and it’s really an exciting emergence to see,” Carroll said of Bryant at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Of Bryant’s move from tackle to end, Carroll added, “He has totally transformed his role on our football team, to the point where we look for players to play like him. … He’s a monster playing on the tight-end side. He has been a big factor in the way we played.”
That’s why the Seahawks felt they could not afford to lose a player who possesses the kind of unique skills that Carroll covets in every player.
“Because of the way it has happened and kind of the attitude and personality that Red brings, he has been very special to us,” Carroll said.
Off the field, as well as on. Bryant also was voted the Steve Largent Award winner last season, which goes annually to the player “who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks.”
Besides, Bryant is a legacy, of sorts. He is married to the former Janelle Green – daughter of Jacob Green, the franchise’s all-time sack leader who also wore No. 79 during his career with the Seahawks.
Asked after the season if he was interested in testing the free agent market, Bryant offered, “I’m not, and the reason I say that is because I know what we have here. The people are great – from the equipment managers, to the trainers, to the people that work in the cafeteria, to the media. It’s a great culture around here that you really have an appreciation for the people here and what they do.
“Just talking to other guys, it’s not always greener on the other side. The Seahawks organization is first class in everything they do, so I have a desire to be here.”
And now, he has a contract that will keep him here.