(Reuters) - The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks made two "extremely tough decisions" when they released wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant on Friday to create additional salary cap space.
With free agency fast approaching on March 11, Seattle offloaded Rice, who was due $8.5 million in base salary for 2014, and Bryant, who was set to earn $4.5 million.
Rice, 27, has been plagued with assorted injuries since signing a five-year contract with the team in 2011 while Bryant, 29, has played limited snaps in his role as a run-stuffing defensive end.
"We want to thank both Red and Sidney for their effort, commitment and contribution to the Seattle Seahawks over the last few years," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said in a statement.
"These are extremely tough decisions, but we wanted to give them a head start on free agency. We wish them well in the future."
At last week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll also spoke about "difficult decisions" that would have to be made.
"Our whole thing is we'd like to keep this team together as best we can," Carroll said. "There are some very difficult decisions every year you face in the league with contracts and money and (salary) cap and all that stuff.
"Every season is like that, so that brings very challenging decisions for us because we love our team, we love our guys."
Rice, who caught 15 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns before his 2013 season ended after eight games due to a knee injury, posted two farewell notes to Seahawks fans on his Twitter account.
"The amount of love I have for the #12thman and the @Seahawks organization! Thanks for a wonderful experience! #superbowlchampions #workethic #values #class," Rice tweeted.
"The number #12 will remain on the left side of my chest no matter what! Grateful for the opportunity to share so many special moments w yall."
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry