Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lukewarm on the Red Bryant Re-Signing

DE Red Bryant is a favorite son of Seahawks fans. He's an exciting comeback story, an opportunistic playmaker in the mold of Carroll's perpetually overachieving "dirty defense", and certainly has a role in Seattle's lopsided scheme.

Today he finally signed an offer Seattle had on the table for a while, 5 years for $35 million. That was bigger than I was expecting. It was 40% bigger than Brandon Mebane's contract last year. I feel a bit like a stormtrooper in the midst of the celebration over Emperor Palpatine's death, but I have a few nagging reservations about this.

- First, it complicates efforts to sign DE Mario Williams. But this doesn't qualify as the foremost reason, because Williams to Seattle was never a certainty and perhaps never even a likelihood. I don't recall reading anything that really convinces me of drooling interest on Seattle's part. (While I was typing, Mike Sando confirmed this.) Outbidding four other teams to give him the largest DE contract in NFL history wouldn't exactly fit Carroll/Schneider's style. I'd qualify that by saying that Carroll/Schneider's style is to win at the end of the day, and Mario Williams would certainly service that. He'd have been a young, scheme-fitting, all-around superstar at a position of desperate need. But disappointment with Bryant over a free-agent signing that may never even have happened wouldn't be fair to our favorite relative of Jacob Green.

- Secondly, it takes the "Bryant experiment" and turns it into a long-term fixture. Red has a reputation of making life complicated for opponents' run games, but after two years I'm still not convinced that his impact is all that. What he did in 2010 was too circumstantial to trust, lambasting bad running teams in his first six games and happening to get hurt (along with the rest of the line) right as Seattle reached the worst part of its schedule. He stayed healthy in 2011, but Seattle's run defense didn't. It was declining towards the latter half of the season as speedier backs like Demarco Murray and Roy Helu found traction against them.

Something else that continues to decline is our pass rush. Everyone agrees that this is an issue, and while Bryant isn't an active part of the problem, he doesn't do much to help (and isn't intended to). He's a big guy with unusual quickness, but not enough agility or closing speed to harass quarterbacks, especially scrambling ones. This leaves our front pass rush up to one individual, which weakens it right away, as one of the elements of a successful pass rush is unpredictable origin. Carroll seemingly has plans to compensate with one hell of a blitzing linebacker corps, but that's not a catch-all...it requires blitzing lanes and still leaves coverage holes.

With due respect to wrinkles, if there are four players on the line when the ball is snapped, it's a 4-3, and a 4-3 mandates pressure from the 4. That isn't going to be Red, and any pass-rush specialist that spells him to get it will have to be cheap. That, even more than the cap hit, means no Mario - or anyone expensive, for that matter. You don't spend $22+ million annually on one position being shared by two players. Mario couldn't even displace Chris Clemons, because that would preserve the original problem - front QB pressure coming from only one place, a strategic disadvantage. To really blow this thing open, pass-rush reinforcements would need to go right where Red has just been entrenched, and not just on third down. "Hey look, Red's coming off the field, they must be gunning for Brady!"

Bryant's contract, however, signals Carroll's approval of a system that overemphasizes run-stopping ability in a passing league, keeps what pass rush we have constricted to LDE, and also tends to telegraph our intentions at the line by whomever appears at RDE. Reading similar complaints from me a year ago makes me cringe as to how simplistic they were, but Pete's habit last year of swapping Red out with pass-rush specialist(ishs) on 3rd down makes me think he agrees. Which leads me thirdly to...

- ...the statement that Red is worth $10 million more than Brandon Mebane. A lot of folks already disagree with this. 5Y/$35M is not insane for a DE, but it's awkward to justify for one who usually plays two downs, generates no QB pressure, doesn't take well to kicking inside, and should rightfully be playing in a 3-4. It's being said that Bryant's influence in the locker room explains the added value, as does the market - New England was supposed to be interested at one point, and possibly drove the price up.

This certainly isn't a fatal signing or anywhere near a dangerous one. There are plenty of options, as some have theorized - an enterprising schemesmith like Carroll is no doubt still at his whiteboard right now. We are looking at pass-rushing linebacker types in the draft, as well as Jason Jones in free agency (a 3-tech at last! Yay!)

Let's call this what it is - somewhat overpaying for a one-dimensional specialist who's crucial to the team identity but whose usage paints the pass rush into a corner and potentially blocks any big draft investment in defensive end. It's silly to conclude that this front office is financially naive - they were willing to let this heavily valued player test the market rather than eat up (har har) the franchise tag - but some heads around Seattle are cocked.

I suppose we'll see where this goes. I do look forward to blocked field goals all year long. And while I wouldn't expect any pricey defensive ends to appear on Seattle's roster in the near future, money has never been an obstacle to Carroll finding talent. After all we've seen so far, Pete gets the benefit of a doubt from this blogger.

As if the title "blogger" made me any sort of authority on this stuff. Haha.


  1. Nice to see you writing again, Brandon. Could it be possible that Bryant's higher than expected contract value is reflected by his media perception?

    Think about it: Sando has said several times about how Bryant is crucial to the Seahawks' defensive line. More than that, a good number of media outlets have listed Bryant as one of the more valuable free agents available. Peter King listed Bryant at #15 of top 50 free agents; Pete Prisco at CBS listed Bryant at #6 of his top 30; and Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk listed Bryant at #45 out of 100 top free agents.

    Now, that's not say that the media's opinion is God in all matters regarding how much someone should be paid, but it does have some pull. This, in addition to the Patriot's interest may be why Bryant was signed at this total. It may also explain why it took the Seahawks this long to sign Bryant.

    Though, this is all conjecture on my part.

  2. Good read.

    Don't worry about the stormtrooper analogy; Iceheart, Admiral Dahlia, and Grand Admiral Thrawn have your back.

  3. Nice post. I think our defense had atrophied so much in the Ruskell years that people are looking at the big and young players now, and the moderate success they've had (mostly against weak or turnover-prone offenses), and dreaming of a shutdown unit. Pete's scheme, however, even if it is fully realized, won't be it--tough, yes, hard-hitting, and able to shut down Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. But not enough to win road playoff games against elite NFL quarterbacks.

  4. Good to see you back, guys. I'm hardly a scheme expert and would like to think that Red has value to the defense beyond what we've been talking about. Let's wait and see what happens when this year's pass-rush reinforcements do arrive, wherever they go.

  5. These kind of comments hurt because they look true. Its the same with Lynch. My hope, both Bryant and Lynch are described as great locker room guys as well, so, Seahawks are signing two very good players at slightly higher prices who keep the team attitude the same. Let us hope that has a lot of impact.

  6. If what I read is correct, all of Bryant's guaranteed money comes in the first two years of his deal. After that, Seattle can abandon ship at any time with no penalty (which also makes Bryant a prime candidate for restructure). So in a sense, his contract really is an extension of the experiment rather than a forced long term fixture.

    That makes me feel a bit better about a contract I wasn't wild about myself when I first heard of it. Seattle is going to get creative about increasing the pass rush this season. In the likely event that they draft either Ingram or Upshaw, they would be forced to use hybrid 3-4 looks to get production out of those guys, and Red at LDE fits that strategy. If it doesn't work out, Seattle can ditch Bryant in 2014 and use a more traditional 4-3 approach instead. Given Carroll's outstanding track record to this point with scheme and talent evaluation, its not hard for me to give him the benefit of the doubt. I guess we'll see how it all works out.

  7. Thomas Beekers at Field Gulls has floated an argument that Carroll would like to be more aggressive on D once he gets the personnel (penetrating one-gap technique for the linemen, to get technical), so that would mesh with what Kip and Rob have floated in their analyses on Seahawks Draft Blog, and Brandon's hope here. So, yes, it is a case of let's-see. I hope the D is the immovable, nasty unit we'd all like to see.

    Regardless, Carroll has never shied from stating he wants to run the ball and stop the run on D. While he's flexible on a lot of fronts, if those are his main goals, I just think it makes building a winning team that much harder in the NFL these days.

    As a fan who doesn't have a blog, I'm certainly willing to give Carroll the benefit of the doubt. (It's not like I have a choice about it.) I gave Mora the same benefit for a full year until week 16 or so, and Flores for at least two seasons. Pete has earned more than that.

  8. Boo Hoo!, You sound like a Tool when you complain about a "TOP 10 Defense",and Red is a huge part of this "TOP 10 Defense" that you are complaining about... Just because you have two pass-rushers doesn't mean you have a "TOP 10 Defense" and just because you don't have 50+ sacks a year doesn't mean you can't have a "TOP 10 Defense" just look at the Steelers, they had 35 sacks this year and they were the #1 overall defense and the Hawks were just behind them with 33 sacks and were the #9 overall defense...

    Now, Just look at this, The Vikings and The Eagles both had 50 sacks in 2011' and there's a huge gap between them in overall defense The Eagles were at #8 overall (just in front of the Hawks w/33-sacks), and The Vikings were at #21 in overall defense, So what does that tell you Mr. Brandon Adams?, I'll tell you what it tells me, It tells me that sacks in this "passing era" that you brought up are highly overrated and a good defense is based on "ALL" 11 players and not just the ones who get the sacks...

  9. Getting Jones could improve the pass rush if he plays like he has previously, and I also believe we will get a decent player in the draft that will help in that department. Red just needs to keep what he is doing, and the other guys are going to have to get after the QB. Jones will really help Mebane in the middle.

  10. I hear all the time that any big guy can step in and play the 5-tech like Red.So then any big guy can block 4 kicks ? Or get the pick-6 ? Nope. Red is a huge, strong, fast football player. He is a team leader and a playmaker. He is also the "lynch-pin" on the D-line. What he does,(very well) on the strong side of the line is what enables the whole front 7 to operate as they do. Similar to Earl Thomas in the secondary. He doesn't get sacks. Well that's not his job in this defense. He is of huge value to this team & would be very hard to replace. Great signing for this team!

  11. @Anonymous - you can't value a starting defensive end by the pick-sixes or blocked field goals he gets. Those aren't really their job, either. The pick-six was practically handed to him on a silver platter by a bad QB under pressure by KJ Wright (who also tipped Red his previous interception).

    I agree Red's job is not to get sacks, but it needs to be SOMEBODY'S job, and usually the DE is best positioned to do it. The blocked field goals are great, but their expected value per game probably wouldn't stack up against the value of getting sacks and ending drives further upfield.

  12. So, you're lukewarm on Red and actually think Tarvaris should keep his job... I don't get it.

    I started reading and the first thing you suggest is that signing Red "complicates" signing the often injured, highest priced free agent there was available.

    The Seahawks already have a guy that gives you 75% of Mario Williams at 10% of the cost. Mario Williams plays the same position as Clemons and the Seahawks don't need him. Signing Williams is a move that the Redskins would make... I don't look to that franchise as a model I want the Seahawks to follow. Plus, Williams hasn't played a full season for several years and is once again coming off an injury.

    I continue reading.

    What about the "Bryant Experiment" becoming a long term option is bad? Bryant on the strong side is a force that opponents cannot get past. Not allowing teams to run the ball is a good thing.

    I don't know if you noticed, but when Red went down with an injury two seasons ago, Seattle's run defense went from #2 in the league to #23. Then, when he was back for last season, Seattle's run defense was back among the top teams. What more will it take to convince you that his impact IS "all that"?

    I agree with you on the pass rush lacking. I don't know if you realize it, but Pete and John have brought in several different DT's (those are the middle two guys on the line) trying to find one that can get a pass rush. Red can't give you much in the way of a pass rush because he is constantly double and triple teamed because teams don't need to double any of the other players along Seattle's defensive line.

    I guess a guy that tells me "if there are four guys on the line when the ball is snapped it's a 4-3", I should already know that you have absolutely no clue, but I couldn't help myself... I kept reading this garbage anyway.

    It seems like you don't really know what you want unless the media tells you that you want it. When you go out on your own, you back Tarvaris Jackson, which is just another stupid thing to do.

    Red is not the problem. Red probably took less to stay in Seattle than he could have gotten elsewhere. Getting one of the best run stuffers for what Seattle paid is a coup in itself. If you want pass rush, look for help for Red, not his replacement.

  13. I run across these writs all the time criticizing our guys. But their moves keep paying off and none of you know-it-alls ever want to admit you were wrong and give credit where credit is due. Try bad mouthing the other team and supporting ours sometime.