Red Bryant’s gigantic shoulders would rise and fall when he turned loose a laugh that started in his equally robust belly.
As defensive captain the past two seasons, he was the Seattle Seahawks’ old soul, delivering speeches before and after games in his Jasper, Texas, baritone.
After the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, Bryant led the team in one of its preferred chants: “We all we got! We all we need!”
Friday, he and injured wide receiver Sidney Rice were the Seahawks’ first cuts of the offseason.
Each were the proverbial “cap casualties,” Bryant in particular.
The Seahawks had shifted him to defensive end from defensive tackle in 2010 where he leveraged his long arms and 323 pounds to occupy blockers and clear space. He was effective there.
But his snap count began to
dwindle as the season went on.
In the Super Bowl, Bryant was on the field for 26 percent of the snaps. He played more often against run-first division foes such as San Francisco. Bryant played 51 percent of the snaps in the grindhouse NFC title game and 55.6 percent of the snaps in three games against the 49ers last season.
With Bryant’s usage almost turning him into a specialist, his large salary cap hit — $8.5 million next season — was hard to justify. Even with the 2014 salary cap being announced at $133 million — a $10 million increase from last season — the Seahawks needed to gain space.
Cutting Bryant and Rice, the latter of which would have been a $9.7 million salary cap blow, takes Seattle from almost last in the league in salary cap space to near the middle of the pack.
Presumably, the wiggle room can be used by Seattle when it attempts to bring back defensive lineman Michael Bennett, which general manager John Schneider said at the NFL combine was a priority.
The Seahawks also must decide how to approach leading receiver Golden Tate, who can become an unrestricted free agent March 11.
In addition, Seattle likely will consider signing free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman to extensions this offseason. Each will be heading into the final year of his contract.
As an unrestricted free agent, Rice was signed by Seattle on July 29, 2011, to a five-year, $41 million deal. He started 31 of the 33 games he played for the Seahawks, making 97 catches for 1,463 yards and 12 touchdowns over three seasons.
His 2011 season was cut short after he was placed on injured reserve (concussion), and he missed the final five games of the season. He started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2012 and led the Seahawks in receptions (50) and yards (748). He tied Tate for the team lead in touchdowns (7), one shy of his career high set in 2009.
Last season, Rice had 15 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his knee at St. Louis. He was placed on injured reserve Oct. 30.
Rice’s departure, like Bryant’s, was expected.
Still, Bryant’s release is not to be underestimated. He was one of four holdovers — along with his best friend and fellow defensive lineman Brandon Mebane, punter Jon Ryan and center Max Unger — from the era of former general manager Tim Ruskell, who resigned in 2009. Ruskell and the Seahawks drafted Bryant out of Texas A&M in the fourth round in 2008.
Toward the end of last year, Bryant explained how fortunate he felt to still be part of the team after such turnover when coach Pete Carroll and Schneider came in.
He also thought the Seahawks had a shot to be memory makers.
“Everybody on this team understands we’re in a great position to do something that will last longer than our playing days,” Bryant said.
They did, and it will now serve as the cap on his time in Seattle.