Carlos Dunlap was set to have over a $14 million cap hit against the Seahawks in 2021, including over $3 million in a roster bonus due at some point this month. As a result of that, the fact that the NFL’s overall salary cap is going down this year, and the fact that the Seahawks didn’t have a ton of extra cap space laying around anyway, Carlos Dunlap was cut today.
It sucks, but it makes sense. This was apparently the agreement all along – after the Seahawks traded for him last year, and talked him into taking a reduced salary in the short term – so he would get a chance to test the free agent waters as a 32 year old. After all, this might be his last chance to really cash in on an open market.
I know it can be tricky when it comes to giving a lot of money to aging veterans in the NFL. I know, in fact, that the Seahawks have had recent landmines they’ve stepped on in the form of Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor (among others), who weren’t even as old as Dunlap is right now! You just never know when someone is going to suffer a career-ending injury (but, you DO know that the likelihood tends to increase with age). That’s why the smart money is NOT extending or signing guys on third or fourth contracts, unless they’re “prove-it” type deals that can be team friendly if they fail to live up to pre-signing hopes. But, in this case, I don’t care: I want the Seahawks to re-sign Carlos Dunlap. Even if it’s a three or four year deal, whatever (mostly because most of the money on those deals are only guaranteed for the first two years anyway).
Sometimes you have to take a chance. The Bucs took a chance at signing a lot of older defensive linemen, and look at what happened this past season! Defensive linemen tend to age a lot better than various other position groups. They’re not relied upon for speed so much as power, and power tends to stay with you the longer you’ve had it. Speed, on the other hand, declines much more rapidly, which is why you don’t see a lot of elderly safeties or linebackers.
Carlos Dunlap was FAR AND AWAY the best pass rushing defensive lineman for the Seahawks last year. There’s an obvious reason why Jamal Adams – a safety – led the team in sacks. Yes, part of that is because he is especially-great. But, while 9.5 sacks is MOST impressive for a person in your secondary, it’s not all that special compared to what linemen are supposed to get. Your best pass rusher SHOULD have double-digit sacks. And, I have no doubt that if Dunlap had been with Seattle for the entire season, he easily would have eclipsed that mark.
While I would have preferred not subjecting ourselves to this kind of risk – of letting Dunlap peddle his wares elsewhere, with a good likelihood of not being able to match other offers – it also does make sense to see where the market for him really is. The Bengals didn’t think very highly of him, and they definitely could have used someone of his talent and experience in their current rebuild! But, they are also notoriously cheap, so it would make sense that they’d cut and run a year or two early.
My educated guess is that Dunlap is looking to play for a winner (because he’s stated as much). My hunch is: most good teams will see what he was still able to accomplish last year and be on board with signing him. I would like to believe that the Seahawks have a leg-up, of sorts, because he knows our system, our coaching staff, and experienced at least a little bit of winning (even though the playoff exit was a bitter pill to swallow). That being said, the Seahawks are still based in and around Seattle, where almost no one in sports wants to spend their time. So, I couldn’t even say with any amount of certainty that the Seahawks – if they did just match another team’s offer – would have the tiebreaking edge. Most likely, we’d have to take that deal and improve upon it somewhat; to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse (in the non-lethal sense, of course).
That sounds grim. That sounds like there’s a less-than 50% chance of him returning. But, there is some good news. Like, for instance, he did have some nagging injuries last year that limited his playing time. A foot injury, if I’m not mistaken, and those are NEVER good. They nag, they linger, and they progressively worsen the more you’re on your feet; football players NEED to be on their feet to be effective. It’s right there in the name! So, that might downgrade his value to the rest of the league. As will, of course, the state of the NFL’s salary cap; the Seahawks aren’t the only ones who need to cut costs to make ends meet. As will the fact that those other cuts are also likely to be quality players too! There are going to be TONS of viable options out there on the free agent market; I wouldn’t say Carlos Dunlap is the best of the best. He might have to wait it out a little bit before finding a deal that’s to his liking. The longer he has to wait, the better our chances are to swoop in and steal him at the last minute.
This isn’t a be-all, end-all thing. This isn’t like re-signing Russell Wilson in his prime. But, I think Carlos Dunlap is VERY important to Seattle’s chances in 2021 and 2022. I do NOT believe in the younger guys behind him, at all! So, if we can’t bring Dunlap back, we sure as shit better figure out a way to get someone comparable to his talent level in here. Because this defense needs HELP!
And, quite frankly, it would be nice to not have to have this exact concern heading into each and every fucking season from now until the end of time.