The Seahawks’ release of Carlos Dunlap, their best pass rusher, was not unexpected, but it also is probably not a good omen for the offseason.
It shows that the Seahawks did not value their most impactful defender from 2020, were not creative enough to keep him, are still not looking to the future and are likely to go the budget route in filling their few roster holes.
Dunlap’s impact on the defense was obvious. In seven games before he was acquired from Cincinnati, the Seattle defense was horrendous: 28.4 points per game, 461 yards per game, just 1.7 sacks per game.
After Dunlap arrived, those numbers improved immensely in the last nine games: 19.1 ppg, 318 ypg, 3.8 spg. His impact transcended his own numbers (five sacks, 14 QB hits, six tackles for loss).
Jarran Reed was the biggest beneficiary of Dunlap’s presence. In the first seven games, he had one sack, 2 QB hits and one TFL. In nine games after the Dunlap trade, Reed recorded 5.5 sacks, 12 QB hits and four TFL.
If John Schneider does not have a grand plan for adding someone even better than Dunlap (history says he has no plan at all), this was not a smart move. Schneider and Matt Thomas (Seattle’s contract guy) easily could have extended Dunlap at the same rate he was making while cutting his 2021 cap hit by $10 million. If he didn’t perform, they could cut him in 2022 or 2023.
Instead, pass rusher has become their No. 1 need for the third straight year. It’s an endless lack of planning and reliance on luck at that significant position. As one fan tweeted, “I am tired of one-year rentals.”
The Seahawks reclaimed $14 million in cap space with Dunlap’s departure. After tendering Poona Ford and some ERFAs, they will have around $12 million. By July, they will need around $7 million for rookies, practice squad and in-season injury replacements. So, unless they make other moves to create that space, $5 million is all they would have to spend on veterans.
Seattle can create more space via a restructure of Bobby Wagner (up to $6 million); extensions of Tyler Lockett, Jamal Adams, Duane Brown, Quandre Diggs or Michael Dickson; and perhaps a trade of Jarran Reed.
Schneider and Thomas surely will try to avoid as much of that as possible, so you can expect them to go the short-term bargain route on a veteran pass rusher, center, cornerback and running back.
They let Dunlap go nine days before the league year starts and two weeks ahead of a $3 million roster bonus, so perhaps they are getting ready to trade Russell Wilson. That would require $7 million in cap space, plus whatever the cost of a new QB would be. Mike Silver of NFL Network indicated that talks were ongoing, though a trade is not necessarily coming, and “we’ll have a lot more resolution by next week.”
Of course, it’s more likely that Schneider is just giving Dunlap a jump on free agency before a bunch of pass rushers hit the market next week.
We previously went through this scenario and looked at some pass rushers Schneider could target to replace Dunlap. Think cheap veterans on one-year deals — it’s what he does.
As the Dunlap dump showed, Schneider just is not very creative or forward thinking. With this GM, it’s one year at a time.