In the first of what should be a series of moves to replenish their dilapidated defensive line, the Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed to a four-year contract with recently released defensive tackle Red Bryant.
Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, and the Jaguars are yet to confirm the signing. It was originally reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network:
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports had more information on the deal:
The Jaguars later confirmed the deal via their Twitter account:
As noted by Rapoport, Bryant met with the Jaguars on Friday. Though it's a bit of a surprise for things to come together quickly, Jacksonville seemed like a natural landing spot for Bryant since the Seahawks released him last month.
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and Bryant are familiar with one another from the former's time as Seattle's defensive coordinator. Bradley served under Pete Carroll from 2009-12 before landing in Jacksonville. Bryant, who turns 30 next month, was one of the few pre-Carroll holdovers on the Seahawks' Super Bowl team after being a fourth-round steal in 2008.
On the surface, this is a mutually beneficial signing. Bryant is changing teams for the first time in his NFL career, but joining a scheme with which he's highly familiar. The Jaguars are able to lock down a solid player at one of their biggest need positions just hours into the NFL's free agency negotiation window. (Bryant, as a released player, is free to sign before the official March 11 beginning of free agency.)
Jacksonville has a long-running problem with its defensive line. Recent Jaguars history has been littered with early-round draft busts (most famously Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in 2008) and free-agent signing attempts gone bust.
The team claimed defensive end Jason Babin off waivers before last season, and he helped to the tune of 7.5 sacks, but the Jags still finished tied for the league's fewest sacks. Football Outsiders ranked Jacksonville No. 30 against the pass and No. 21 against the run, and the line specifically struggled in "power" situations.
Bryant should help in that regard. Versatile to play on the end in 3-4 systems or in both defensive line roles in a 4-3, Bryant became one of the league's most respected run stoppers in Seattle. His ability to clog up space without losing out athletically to offensive tackles made him an interesting weapon for Carroll to deploy. He was also voted a defensive captain, which should give the Jaguars some much-needed leadership.
“Maybe we have a chance to get them back,” Carroll told reporters of Bryant and wide receiver Sidney Rice, partially signifying what he meant to the locker room. “Maybe we don’t. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Whether Bryant can perform at a near-Pro Bowl level in Jacksonville is questionable. Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated correctly pointed out that Bryant's role with the Seahawks diminished as 2013 went along, with his snaps decreasing exponentially from 2011 and 2012. The addition of Michael Bennett and a deep stable of Seattle pass rushers played a role, but Bryant himself wasn't always as effective.
Bryant ranked in the bottom half of 4-3 defensive ends as a pass rusher last season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Nonetheless, he was still solid against the run and should help the Jaguars—who needed just about anything they could get on the line.
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