BY Art Thiel 01:25PM 03/08/2021

Thiel: Dunlap cut saves Hawks cash; now what?

Carlos Dunlap was a big competitive help in 2020, but was cut Monday by Seahawks because in ’21 he’s a financial burden. Now, where to apply his $14 million in savings?

In his first Seahawks game, DE Carlos Dunlap had one of Seattle’s seven sacks of Buffalo QB Josh Allen. / Seahawks.com

Carlos Dunlap was a great midseason competitive fit for the Seahawks in 2020. But in 2021, the defensive end was going to be a burdensome financial fit. So now he’ll become a free agent next week when the NFL’s annual talent bazaar gets underway, according to a tweet Monday morning from ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter saying Dunlap was cut.

The fate of QB Russell Wilson is not the only heavy lift for the Seahawks off-season. Just the most unexpected one.

The club was barely under the salary cap when it was at $198 million, so now that financial losses from empty stadiums have dropped the 2021 number into the range of $185 million (still not official), Dunlap’s $14 million expense in his age-32 season was seen as a likely casualty.

Which doesn’t mean he still can’t be Seahawk.

He’ll have to accept a pay cut, but could get a two- or three-year deal under team-friendly terms. That’s also true for 31 other teams, who will pick through a high number of quality rush ends that are likely to become available by the March 17 start of free agency.

In eight games after coming over from Cincinnati, where he played 11 seasons, Dunlap had five sacks, six tackles for loss and 14 QB hits, helping turn the defense into one of the NFL’s best units by season’s end. He also had a quarterback hit and two passes defended in the playoff game against the Rams.

Before his inexpensive arrival — the Seahawks gave the Bengals back-up C B.J. Finney, a free-agent signee who never played in Seattle, and a seventh-round pick — a season-ending injury to DE Bruce Irvin and a health no-show by rookie second-round DE Darrell Taylor helped make the early season pass rush woeful.

But it finished the season with 46 sacks, seventh-most in the league, thanks in part to Dunlap’s arrival and the return to health of another newcomer, SS Jamal Adams.

Although Taylor is expected to play, there is doubt about the return of Irvin, 34 in November, after knee surgery. Benson Mayowa, 30 in August, is also a free agent.

Besides potentially back-filling for Dunlap, the Seahawks have big decisions to make on which of their own top unrestricted free agents to attempt to keep: CBs Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, LB K.J. Wright, C Ethan Pocic and WR David Moore. And Adams enters his contract’s final year expecting an extension.

All of these decisions fall in the shadow of Wilson’s unmoored future.

The $14 million in cap savings could be sucked up in pursuit of upgrades to the offensive line, a position that will have several quality free agents who would satisfy Wilson’s desire for more physical safety. Or the money could be held in a sort of escrow in case they are forced to trade Wilson and account for at once, by NFL rule, all $39 million in dead money he’s already been paid.

The roster-management task is formidable — as it is for each club in this unprecedented year of cap shrinkage. But none of them are looking at the possibility of replacing a franchise quarterback while missing at least $40 million in resources to do so.

Until that decision is made, top free agents with choices are going to look at the Seahawks with eyebrows in high arch. This will be a lousy period in the NFL calendar to have pants around one’s knees.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Tman

    The salary cap is not only unfair, it hurts the game. How can it be legal to limit anyone’s income? The fact the players union agreed to it does not make it right. The salary cap needs to go.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Maybe. The NFL has charted itself into the heavens of sports. Only baseball, perhaps, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, has reached these heights of influence. Maybe we can have an elastic cap in certain situations in today’s NFL. But…I would also like to see MLB and the NBA lose guaranteed contracts. They play the devil. Too many horrible endings.

      • art thiel

        The NFL isn’t really a hard cap, because there are some workarounds. But it’s not a joke like the NBA’s, and MLB doesn’t have a cap.

    • jafabian

      It’s to keep all teams on the same level as far as player acquisitions. So teams that have a lot of financing don’t outspend teams that don’t and have a monopoly on the best players. Unfortunately the Seahawks are a team that has a lot of financing. Then it comes down to your brain trust. Can they play the game with the rules as they are? Can they get to Go and get the $200 they need by passing all the houses and hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place? Gotta play by the rules.

      • Husky73

        The NFL would be happy if half the teams were 9-7 and the other half were 7-9.

        • art thiel

          So would fans.

        • jafabian

          As long as the winning teams were in the larger media markets.

      • art thiel

        An unrestricted free market for what amounts to a weekly soap opera for 32 markets would be a disaster.

    • Stephen Pitell

      I cannot agree that the salary cap hurts the game. In fact, I believe the opposite. Is it unfair? I don’t think so. They had collective bargaining and this is what they came up with. They have no one to blame but themselves.

      • Dorothy Brennan

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      • art thiel

        Everyone is making money and it’s the No. 1 spectator sport.

  • woofer

    With a reduced cap, players everywhere are going to get cut and then re-up on a restructured deal. My hunch is that the Hawks and Dunlap work something out. He fills a big hole and seems happy in Seattle.

    • art thiel

      Possible, but there’s a glut of rush ends this time. The Seahawks did like his production.

  • Alan Harrison

    Maybe this was a respect-for-Carlos moment? After all, there was no way he was going to be signed for another $14 million, so the move was inevitable; but the timing of it is curious to me. Why not restructure the RW and BW contracts and extend Jamal Adams first, then choose to release Carlos (or not) based on the new cap totals? Then again, a big signing bonus for Dunlap on a 3 year deal at $30MM ($22MM guaranteed) might do the trick.

    In any case, of the other names in the article, I don’t see how they sign any of them except Hyde (at a vet min) and Adams’ extension. Maybe Dunbar on a cheap deal, if he has nowhere else to go – same with David Moore. But you know there’s some team out there who’s going to hire/pay a lot for Wright, Griffen, Pocic, and Carson.

    • jafabian

      Remember how teams poached the backups for the LOB when they became free agents and overpaid for them? There’s always someone who will pay more. Just have to decide if it’s worth matching the offer or if there’s a player who can replace the one you’re losing.

      • art thiel

        The Seahawks have so many needs and so few resources that Dunlap’s $14M made for a no-brainer decision.

    • art thiel

      There’s a sequence of events underway among all teams that dictate when they make certain moves on the NFL calendar. Dunlap is eligible to be signed now, so that may well be a courtesy to him, as it was when Carolina released Greg Olsen a year ago.

  • jafabian

    I’m betting someone will overpay for Dunlap, probably an NFC West team thinking that the Seahawks are vulnerable this season and need to make a move now because they might not have this opportunity again. Since the Niners haven’t done the moves that the Cards and Rams have and also might not have Nick Bosa at the beginning of the season I expect them to be the winner of the Dunlap sweepstakes. After seeing players like Sheldon Richardson and Jadeveon Clowney walk, players who were desperately needed, I’m not much on being a believer that he’ll be riding the Blue Wave this season.

    So if the club decides to stick with Wilson and recruit some All Pro talent for the O-Line would they be willing to release Wagner? Or ask him to restructure his contract? That would be the other option that the Hawks could look at.

    • Tisha Smith

      Get $192 p hour from Google!…~a3410~ Yes this is best since I just got my first paycheck of $24413 and this was just of a one week… I have also purchased my BMW M5 right after this payment…~a3410~ it is really great job I have ever had and you won’t for-give yourself if you do not check it >>>> http://www.riverbridge.cf/check2020 ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

    • art thiel

      I’m sure Dunlap will get paid by someone. I think they’ll ask Wagner to restructure to create cap room this season.

  • Guy K. Browne

    With so many variables and so much uncertainty going into the 2021 season, not just for the Seahawks, but for every NFL team, I have a hard time worrying about any of this stuff until the dust settles and the shuffling stops.
    The gyrations between now and September will be a wild spectacle to say the least.

    • art thiel

      I would agree that it’s a healthier approach, and we all have priorities. On the other hand, it’s a daily soap opera that serves many as a distraction.

      • Guy K. Browne

        I’m all for the distraction, I’ll have a King Beer in one hand and a King dog in the other while watching the carnage from the bleachers.

        I predict a lot of one year deals happening this spring/summer while everyone waits to see what happens revenue-wise during the upcoming season. There’ll be a lot of players not getting what they want (deserve?) because I’m pretty sure that none of the players with existing deals are going to toss cash back into the kitty.

  • Mister Tacoma

    The club was barely under the salary cap when it was at $198 million, so now that financial losses from empty stadiums have dropped the 2021 number into the range of $185 million (still not official), Dunlap’s $14 million expense in his age-32 season was seen as a likely casualty.
    With “still not official” in brackets, does that mean there is a chance for the rule to change this year?

  • Husky73

    I liked this guy. Sorry to see him go. He was a difference maker. Maybe the Hawks will bring him back?

    • art thiel

      Dunlap was good, and they would like him back. There’s a glut on pass rushers on the market so his return is possible.

  • 1coolguy

    On PTI today – Pardon The Interruption – they hypothesized one I hadn’t heard before about RW – That he is the perfect QB to succeed Brees in Payton’s system, and as NO is WAY over the cap already, they can unload a number of solid players to the Hawks in a trade.
    Problem solved for both teams.

    • art thiel

      I doubt the Seahawks want either of the Saints’ backup QBs. Problem unsolved.

      • 1coolguy

        The “number of solid players” were various and the two PTI hosts did not address who would replace RW. The message was the Hawks would be able to fill a few gaps they currently have with NO players.
        Agreed, NO doesn’t have a backup of starting QB quality, so the Hawks would need to sign a QB from another club.

        • Husky73

          Goodbye Russell Wilson……Hello 4-12.

          • jafabian

            With him in 2021 they won’t be much better. They could lose Carson, Dunlap, Griffin, Pocic, Moore and Wright. They’d be replaced with free agents or from within. If the season was right now the Rams and Cards will sweep the Hawks and the Niners will sweep. The teams they face on the road and have trouble are the Packers, Vikings, Washington and Colts. They face the Saints and Bears at home. The Hawks could very well have ten losses next season depending on who returns and how quickly they adapt to the new OC’s offense.

          • Husky73

            Aren’t roughly 25+ NFL in roughly the same boat today?

          • jafabian

            The Hawks just need to concern themselves with their division and right now they’re in 3rd place, The Niners have a little more cap space than the Seahawks, $25 million compared to $22 million according to pro football network.com, and have 10 draft picks in the upcoming draft and the Seahawks have only five, not picking until 56. IMO they’ll play hard but will be willing to sacrifice 2021 for a better 2022. They can’t get better than last season. I’m thinking that Dunlap, Griffin, Moore and Wright will leave. Probably Hollister as well.

  • Seattle Psycho

    The NFL needs to hurry up and set the cap. A week away from FA starting and teams still don’t know how much they can spend. It’s ridiculous. I understand the pandemic caused the problem and no one could foresee it happening, but a decision needs to be made.

    • Seattle Psycho

      And as soon as I post I see a story saying it is set at $182.5M.

      • art thiel

        Well, you’ve had a good morning already.

  • tor5

    Such a daunting situation. Just glad that Schneider and Carroll are competent. Though not perfect, they’ve done well in tight spots before.