The Dunlap dilemma

One of the top things on our offseason to-do list for the Seahawks has been to extend Carlos Dunlap, who turned around their pass rush – and thus their defense — after his arrival in October.

A short extension for Dunlap would allow the Seahawks to greatly reduce his $14 million cap hit in 2021. However, some reporters who cover the team think Dunlap may be released, thereby freeing up the entire $14 million – and sending the Hawks on the hunt yet again for a top pass rusher.

ESPN’s Brady Henderson thinks the Seahawks will ask the 31-year-old Dunlap to take a lot less than the $13.3 million average on his last contract, and Henderson thinks Dunlap will be fine taking his chances in a constricted cap year around the league, with a lot of pass rushers potentially available.

“As much as he likes Seattle, I think he’ll want to test free agency for the first (maybe only) time in his career and see his market value …,” Henderson said in a Twitter conversation, adding that Seattle might not be interested in paying what he wants due to “his age, foot injury, their reluctance to eat dead money in future years.”

It really comes down to whether Dunlap and the Hawks can agree on a price to stay. Some think he would get no more than $6 million or $7 million on the market. It’s up to his agent to feel that out, though the market will not be firmed up until perhaps early March, after the salary cap is finally set (March 1 is the reported target for that). It will be at least $180 million, and some think it could go to $188 million (still a $10 million drop from 2020).

Bill Avstad of the Seahawks Playbook Podcast suggests the Hawks might replace Dunlap’s $14 million in 2021 with something like a two-year, $17 million deal that guarantees $10 million. If Dunlap’s value around the league really does drop to $7 million, that would be a fair offer. But would Dunlap simply prefer to hit the street, as Henderson thinks?

If the Hawks and Dunlap do part company, Seattle will be in the market for a pass rusher for the third straight offseason – still looking for the long-term replacement for Cliff Avril (retired in 2018) and Frank Clark (traded in 2019).

As Jeff Simmons of Real Hawk Talk points out, it could be a buyer’s market for pass rushers, which would not help Dunlap’s case:

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Hawks would end up with a good replacement for Dunlap from that group. Since trading Clark two years ago, Schneider has picked up second-tier players in March and waited until deep into the year to make bargain trades for better options. He got Jadeveon Clowney in August 2019 for a third-rounder and two backups (Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo), and he acquired Dunlap last October for a seventh-rounder and an overpaid bench player (B.J. Finney).

Would Schneider really continue to use that so-called strategy to address a major position that clearly was the difference between a good defense and a bad one in 2020?

Remember, the Hawks still do not have any homegrown options at LEO – 2020 second-rounder Darrell Taylor did not play as a rookie and 2020 fifth-rounder Alton Robinson is just a rotation guy. The Hawks need a standout veteran rusher.

Will Schneider save himself some work and find a way to keep the one he has?

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