RENTON, Wash. - The Seattle Seahawks released defensive end Chris Clemons on Wednesday, a move that saves significant salary cap room but takes away one of their top pass rushers the past four seasons.
The move, first reported by NFL.com and confirmed by Clemons' representatives, was not unexpected as Seattle tries to clear the right amount of financial space to make moves in free agency while also trying to work on extensions for safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.
Clemons was set to make $7.5 million in base salary in 2014, the final year of an extension he signed with the Seahawks before the start of the 2012 season.
Clemons turned around his career when he arrived in Seattle via trade before the 2010 season and will be regarded as one of the top moves made by general manager John Schneider. After failing to find success in Oakland and Philadelphia, Clemons thrived in Seattle.
Placed into the LEO position on the defensive line, Clemons became Seattle's top pass rusher for his first three seasons with the Seahawks with a combined 33 1/2 sacks from 2010 to 2012 and at least 11 sacks in each of those seasons.
Last season, Clemons had only 4 1/2 sacks as the emergence of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and a deeper rotation on the defensive line took away some of Clemons' opportunities. Clemons suffered a torn ACL in the 2012 playoffs but worked his way back to where he was on the field by Week 3 of the regular season.
He had 3 1/2 sacks his first five games, but had just one sack the final nine games of the regular season. Clemons did have Seattle's only sack of Peyton Manning in its Super Bowl blowout victory.
With Seattle's re-signing of Bennett earlier this week, it seemed only a matter of time before Clemons was released.
Clemons, 32, is the fourth defensive player to either be released by the Seahawks or sign with another club in free agency. Fellow defensive end Red Bryant was released last week and signed with Jacksonville. Free agent Clinton McDonald signed with Tampa Bay on Tuesday and reserve safety Chris Maragos agreed to a deal with Philadelphia on Wednesday morning.