BY Art Thiel 06:30PM 04/06/2021

Thiel: Dunlap quotes Wilson — ‘Let’s go, Hawks’

Before he re-signed with the Seahawks, DE Carlos Dunlap was assured by Russell Wilson that he was returning to Seattle. Just when you were getting amped for Sam Darnold . . .

FS Quandre Diggs and DE Carlos Dunlap agree that teammate L.J. Collier helped create a fourth-quarter safety against Arizona in 2020. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

Those of us who find ourselves on periodic patrols to glean the latest on Russell Wilson’s off-season soap opera with Seahawks football came across a sizable bread crumb Tuesday.

In his discussing his own return to Seattle — “It was the (team) culture, the city . . . the transparency from the organization” — DE Carlos Dunlap told a Zoom conference of local media that Wilson is coming back.

As far as he knows.

As of now.

“I did ask him if, obviously, he was going to be with us,” he said. “Because if I’m coming back, I see him as my quarterback, and the rest of the team. I want to pick up where we left off. He told me he’s with us, and here to stay.

“He said, ‘Let’s go, Hawks.’ ‘These words are not his words verbatim, but these are my explanations of how I interpreted what he said.”

Until Wilson says it himself publicly, and Seahawks management likewise affirms Wilson’s presence for 2021, the fire likely won’t be put out completely. But besides the intel from Dunlap, another ember went cold this week when the New York Jets Monday traded Sam Darnold to QB-hungry Carolina for three non-first-round picks.

Darnold, 23, had been speculated as heading to Seattle in a trade for Wilson for the Jets’ second pick in the draft this month, plus other baubles, especially after Carroll’s laudatory comments earlier last season about Darnold’s NFL future. But the Jets presumably have opted to keep draft door number two behind Jacksonville, which seems destined to take  Clemson star Trevor Lawrence, leaving BYU QB Zach Wilson for the Jets.

Carroll’s positive review of Darnold’s three mediocre seasons in New York apparently was shared by Carolina’s new general manager, Scott Fitterer. He was director of football operations for the Seahawks, and a 20-year club employee who was part of Carroll’s inner circle, before taking the Panthers job in January.

Darnold now likely replaces Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina, and robs the NFL media class of a potential solution for the seeming rift between Wilson and coach Pete Carroll. But the off-season changes to the offense, whether intentionally or coincidentally, seem to have curtailed Wilson’s dismay.

From a Seahawks management perspective, one of the biggest irritations with Wilson’s unprecedented public scolding and subsequent nebulous future with the team, was that it had the potential of hurting the club’s chances to re-sign their own free agents, as well as recruit others. For free agents good enough to have choices of teams, the Seahawks look a lot better with Wilson than without him.

Yet  the club managed to walk a tightrope from Wilson’s post-Super Bowl airings of grievances in a carefully crafted media tour, to the March 17 start of free agency, when they didn’t have much room under the salary cap.

They seem to have retained most players they realistically sought to re-hire, like Dunlap, and still pulled in newbies such as TE Gerald Everett,  CB Ahkello Witherspoon DE Kerry Hyder.

For Dunlap, there was a bit of suspense from his March 8 release to his March 25 re-signing as to whether the Seahawks truly wanted him back, on terms more favorable to the club.

“After a week passed, a lot of people were signing,” Dunlap said of the start of free agency. “Teams were signing their guys, and Seattle didn’t really sign that many guys in the first week. Then they started signing guys. So I was trying to gauge and feel. We hadn’t gotten an offer. We hadn’t had strong conversations with Seattle at that point.

“So we started fielding all the other teams that were interested. Then Seattle called, and it was where I wanted to be. It was done in 24 hours.”

Dunlap, 32, ended up agreeing to a two-year contract worth up to $13.6 million, less than the $14.1 million it was going to cost in the final year of his deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, from where he was acquired in mid-season. But the Seahawks included three voidable years, so that his salary cap hit for this season is a tidier $2.9 million.

Happy as the Seahawks are with the return of Dunlap, who had five sacks in his eight Seattle games and helped lead a big defensive turnaround, they still have holes.

News came this week that the Seahawks lost in free agency CB Quinton Dunbar, who signed with the Lions. That means that they are missing both starting cornerbacks from 2020, with Shaquill Griffin having left earlier for Jacksonville.

Dunbar, a free agent from Washington, played six games and allowed a passer rating of 111.0, almost double the 61.2 he gave up in 2019 with Washington, according to Pro Football Reference. A knee injury that he brought into camp, and subsequent surgery, ended his season early, after playing hurt for several games.

The defense also lost DT Jarran Reed in free agency to Kansas City, but the Seahawks backfilled with Al Woods, 34, who opted out of football last year after spending 2019 with Seattle, playing in 14 games, including five starts.

The offense is, of course, where the off-season drama lay.

Still in need is the receiver group, which lost David Moore and Phillip Dorsett to free agency, and needs a solid No. 3 wideout. But one receiver has already contributed.

Tyler Lockett agreed tore-work his contract, giving him a four-year extension (no voidable years) worth up to $69.2 million, including $37 million guaranteed. Besides making him among the highest-paid receivers in the NFL, the deal lowered his 2021 cap hit from $15 million to about $7 million.

Wilson shared his approval on Twitter:

In non-transaction news, Everett, the free agent tight end hired away from the Rams, offered in a Zoom conference an intriguing observation about one of his coaches in LA. Shane Waldron, the passing-game coordinator under head coach Sean McVay,  was hired away to become offensive coordinator for the Seahawks.

“They’re getting a mastermind,” said Everett, who spent his four pro years under McVay and Waldron. “Similar to McVay, I think they put their heads together and you had the magic that we were able to whip up in Los Angeles.

“But having Shane in Seattle now, we’re able to see really what he can do, isolated away from the (LA) group, and give him a new set of pieces and just see how he uses them.”

As much as the personnel additions, it is Waldron’s ability to inject eye candy into Seattle’s offense to distract defenders that gives Wilson hope his public pout has made an influential point.

According to Dunlap at least, Wilson is willing to let things, well, cook.


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YourThoughts

  • LarryLurex70

    2 NFL QB’s who aren’t going anywhere soon, but for entirely different reasons: Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. I find it difficult to believe Russ was going anywhere if Darnold was the one being seriously dangled.

    • art thiel

      Wilson was the instigator here, not the team. There was no dangling of Darnold, just an option worth considering if forced to trade.

      • LarryLurex70

        Yes, I acknowledge Wilson’s role in the drama. My point as it relates to Darnold is that amongst the starting QB’s reportedly on offer this offseason – officially and unofficially – his name was the one that always seemed to actually have legs to the rumours around it. Anyone paying attention before the cavalcade of allegations knew Watson wasn’t going anywhere, and, no one knows what’s REALLY going on in Santa Clara with Garolpolo. And, with not too much of anything newsworthy coming out of Oakland nor Jacksonville, that pretty much left Darnold. Unless I’m forgetting someone relevant enough to warrant a mention. That wasn’t going to be even remotely close to being enough to move the needle. No matter how many picks John would’ve received in return, he still would’ve been known as the guy who traded Russ for Sam Darnold. Wasn’t happening.

        • jafabian

          It wouldn’t have been straight up if it happened. The Jets not only have the second overall pick but ten picks total, including two from the Seahawks. It would have been a package deal if it was going to happen.

          • LarryLurex70

            Yes, I’m aware of that, too, and alluded to the picks. But, the picks are going to turn into players down the road. John would’ve been trading Russ for Darnold NOW. THAT would’ve been the heart of the trade. Russ replaced by Darnold and/or Smith. You really believe there’s any amount of draft picks that would’ve made John jump at that?

          • jafabian

            With the second pick the Hawks could get Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance as their top pick depending on who goes at the first pick. With Darnold as the safety net. Not a bad situation IMO but that’s all water under the bridge at this point.

        • art thiel

          Carroll is on record as very positive about Darnold’s future, pre-kerfuffle with Wilson. And as I wrote, Panthers GM Fitterer, Pete’s guy, traded for him. Kid’s only 23.

          • LarryLurex70

            You really expect Carroll to veer from his cheerleading post? It’d be out of character to publicly say anything negative about the starting QB from another team. And, Fitterer had far less explaining to do in going from Bridgewater to Darnold than Schneider would’ve for going from Wilson to Darnold.

            Maybe no one else is willing to say it whilst entertaining the prospect of the deal actually happening, but Darnold just isn’t that good. I don’t think a shitload of draft picks could mask that.

  • jafabian

    Warren Moon said in Yahoo News that despite what Dunlap said he doesn’t believe that Wilson will end his career with the Seahawks. Just doesn’t know when that parting will be. But that he believes the damage is done. I can’t dispute that train of thought when Wilson has for all intent has been relatively silent this offseason. The only other times he’s been like this is when he was in negotiations for a new contract. I’d wager with Darnold being traded and Watson having his problems the Seahawks will simply deal with the situation as best they can and weigh options about Wilson next season. Wilson’s silence seems to be his way of creating a controversy that centers around himself so as to remind the Seahawks how valuable he is to the franchise.

    • Husky73

      Many long-term quarterbacks don’t start and finish their careers with the same team…including Unitas, Namath, Montana and Brady. I don’t expect RW to play the next eight years for Seattle.

      • art thiel

        Manning seems a good analogy. I don’t blame RW for maximizing his career, but call it what it is — player over team.

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      • Trakar

        Boy that’s a tough call. In another six years he’s going to be far less mobile and expensive, but all the additional playing time and a couple more coordinators and he’ll be a most potent field general, then it won’t be about his individual athleticism so much as his command and control in real-time over the team’s young and old athletes during practices and games.

        • jafabian

          He’s at the highest point he’ll ever be at for his career, or might even be starting a downward trend. He might be thinking that he needs to get as much as he can out of his career at this point if money and endorsements are a priority for him.

          • art thiel

            I don’t think money is the driver. As a wrote before, attention is the coin of the social media world.

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    • Mark Stratton

      Restructuring Wilson’s contract to free up cap space, as many thought would happen, would make it impossible to trade him next year. No restructure, so the Hawks must consider a trade next year a possibility. Whether it’s because they’re fed up with Russ or because he forces a trade will be the question. Purely conjecture, but a poor season will probably have the Hawks aggressively trying to trade him. The no-trade clause gives me nightmares of what Clowney did to Houston.

      • art thiel

        There’s many permutations after another season, including performance and health. But you’re right, kicking the salary can down the road for Wilson into ’22 makes a potentially bad situation worse for mangement.

    • tor5

      I’m surprised that so many seem to have this perspective. Wilson’s original comments were pretty mild and obvious…they only stood out because he’s usually so bland with his words. The “approved teams” list was a big deal, because it showed seriousness. And Wilson’s silence, I agree, has helped put people on edge. Maybe Art and other insiders know more about reactions behind the scenes, but I just don’t see that much “damage” beyond the endless media speculation. I can easily see Russ and Pete having a hug and everything being hunky dory for the foreseeable future. It’s not like there were any big insults hurled or deranged 4 a.m. tweets.

      • art thiel

        He’s been tweeting opaque Bible verses, so he’s not totally silent. :)

        Wilson wanted some changes that a lot of fans understood, so there was no recklessness on his part. But he broke Pete’s rule about protecting the team, so that needs fixing. But if he’s here for ’21, it is in both parties’ interest to hug it out.

        • tor5

          Ah yes, the Bible verses! Personally, I love Russ and his whole Mr. Positive mystical vibe. Very hard for me to face the idea of him leaving, I’ll admit.

        • jafabian

          This is my biggest issue with Wilson. SubtweetIng through Bible verses to make his point about his contract negotiations and his grievances with his employer is on the same level as 45 holding up the Bible in front of St. John’s church for a photo op.

          IMO the team has a good enough offense to be in a position to succeed but they don’t have the defense that can get the offense on the field consistently. The secondary, specifically at CB, has become a weak spot. But then the secondary’s failings wouldn’t impact his financial security the way a subpar O-Line would.

          • art thiel

            I suppose you prefer Deshaun Watson’s more direct way of dealing with management.

    • art thiel

      I saw Moon’s remarks, and he knows Wilson. But the world changes almost daily these days, so who’s to say what the relationship will look like in Jan? Wilson could be MVP and the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl. Or they’re 2-14 and Carroll resigns. Let’s not play the Masters more than one hole at a time.

      • jafabian

        I’ve yet to see a relationship grow in pro sports when it fractures this way. The professional athlete ego, necessary in their success, is too fragile to allow that to happen IMO.

        • art thiel

          I’m not saying Moon won’t be right, but there’s too many things that can change the outcome for him to be credible on a forecast now. Lots of pro sports relationships are merely ones of tolerance. Brady-Belichick, for one.

    • Trakar

      Not sure how much respect I have for Moon’s judgement calls.

      • LarryLurex70

        I see what you’re alluding to there, from on high. Fact is: if you REALLY cared about that as much as you want people to think you do, you wouldn’t watch football nor pro sports at all. And, what you’re alluding to has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘Hawks situation with Wilson.

        • Trakar

          To be clear, Moon’s personal life and career exhibit numerous examples of what seem apparent as examples of extremely poor personal judgement and decision-making, therefore I tend not to place too much credence when these people talk about other people’s decisions and judgement. I’m not sure of what you are talking about, but I’m specifically thinking about multiple DUI incidents, drugging and sexual harassment suits, spousal abuse trial, and more,…but I’m merely saying that “good judgement” is not something this formerly good, if not great, athlete is noted for having in surplus, especially in comparison to Russell Wilson.

          • art thiel

            Moon’s numerous dubious episodes with women are separate from his football knowledge. I’d stay away from conflating the two.

          • Trakar

            As a hired writer for a sports news organization, I would expect no less from you. But, in ordinary humans, how we interact with other people (at work and outside of work a) and the judgement we assess in others is not as clearly distinct and compartmentalized. An athlete who trashes his career, largely through ignoring how his on and off the field issues with women, the law, and how those decisions impact his play and career, really isn’t the type of self-reflective , deeply knowledgeable empathetic understander of the decision making judgement of someone like Russell Wilson, I would put much faith in. In fact, if by some chance he is correct in his assessment of Wilson, it wouldn’t elevate my opinion of Moon, it would greatly lower my opinion of Wilson.

      • jafabian

        Why?

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