The Jacksonville Jaguars pass rush needs a big boost, and it will be interesting to see how the team addresses that need on defense. It wasn’t surprising to see them address their need for improved run defense by signing former Seattle Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant yesterday, as it reunites Bryant with current Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley. Bryant will most likely be utilized in the same role he filled out in Seattle as a starting defensive end who sets the tone in run defense, but it will be interesting to see how much the Jags play him at defensive tackle. He’ll likely spend first and second downs at defensive end before kicking inside on third downs, and he’s an upgrade over Tyson Alualu at DE and Roy Miller at DT.
Bryant will make $17 million over four seasons, and the 29-year-old shouldn’t see much of a decline over the course of the contract. His game is predicated on power, anchor, containment, run defense, and football IQ, so the veteran leader isn’t going to bust out of this deal. $4.25 million is a fair amount of money per year for a solid starter of Bryant’s caliber, and it sounds like the Jaguars shouldn’t have a difficult time cutting him if he surprisingly doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
It’s difficult not to really like this signing for the Jaguars, and it goes beyond just his fit with the team as a run-stuffing DE or his relationship with Bradley. The Jaguars allowed 4.2 yards per carry last season, and they could have easily allowed more than that. They weren’t strong at the point of attack, and their run defense was more disappointing than their lack of a pass rush. Roy Miller and Brandon Deaderick were bit players on different teams in 2012, and the Jaguars signed both of them in 2013 in an effort to beef up their defense, especially against the run. Both players were terrible last season, and only former Tennessee Titans key cog Sen’Derrick Marks became a legitimate piece on the Jaguars defense.
Marks, of course, is also a much better pass rusher than a run defender, so the need to find someone who can set the edge against the run became even more important this offseason. Bryant has been a great run defender throughout his career, and he certainly has much more past success than either Miller or Deaderick. I would be beyond shocked if he didn’t put together a strong few years in Jacksonville, and he fits exactly what the Jaguars have been looking for in terms of scheme and ability.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Bryant’s signing impacts former first-round pick Tyson Alualu, who was used in the role that Bryant will fill out. Alualu brings even less to the table as a pass rusher than Bryant, and he wasn’t nearly as good in run defense either. It’s hard to see where he fits on this defense, and I’m not sure we’ll see him kick inside next season either. I want to say that the Jaguars should release him, but I don’t think they will want to pay him $3 million for doing nothing. Regardless, Alualu’s role next season is a storyline to watch for, especially since he didn’t play well last season.
I usually don’t like to talk about a player’s impact as a leader or their emotional impact on a team, since that stuff can be easily overrated. But I think it’s applicable in this case, because Red Bryant is one of the NFL’s best locker room guys. David Caldwell, Gus Bradley, and the entire Jacksonville Jaguars organization clearly instilled a new kind of life into the locker room, and they care about changing the culture in the building. They care about the confidence of their players and mentoring younger guys. Bryant can help them further the learning process and emotional bonds in the locker room with his leadership and experience, and I’m sure that’s also something the Jaguars were looking for when they decided to ink Bryant to a four-year pact.