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Seahawks RB Chris Carson
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Rost: How Seahawks can replace outgoing starters hitting free agency

RB Chris Carson is one of 24 Seahawks hitting unrestricted free agency. (Getty)

The Seahawks have 24 unrestricted free agents but there are three names that are overshadowing all others: running back Chris Carson, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, and linebacker K.J. Wright. That’s for good reason, since all three are fan favorites and veteran starters.

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With just over $4 million in cap space, the Seahawks may be outpriced by other teams or opt for cheaper options. They’ll tap into free agency, but could find potential replacements in their own pool of free agents, too.

Here’s a look at which other Seahawks free agents could replace those outgoing starters:

If they lose Shaquill Griffin…

Re-sign Quinton Dunbar.

I know what you’re thinking. Dunbar’s 2020 season didn’t quite live up to the expectations of fans.

When Seattle traded for the veteran cornerback in early 2020, he was widely considered their best free agent acquisition of the spring. He was coming off a year in which he recorded four interceptions over 11 starts and received a top-five coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. But Dunbar faced a series of challenges in his transition to a new team, both on and off the field.

In May, he was charged with armed robbery. Those charges were dropped by August but Dunbar described the saga as one that clearly took a toll on him, telling reporters he struggled with depression. His season saw an unceremonious end in November when, after struggling through a knee injury in an ugly loss to the Buffalo Bills, he was placed on the injured reserve list.

But should Shaquill Griffin sign elsewhere come March, the Seahawks will be in desperate need of depth for a cornerback room that includes only D.J. Reed, Tre Flowers and Jayson Stanley (with Jordan Miller and Gavin Heslop signed to Reserve/Futures contracts). There’s the potential for a free agent signing, and there will be undrafted rookie free agents invited to training camp, but Dunbar – still just 28 years old with a cheaper contract – boasts more starting experience and versatility.

Related: Why the Seahawks need to give Dunbar another shot

If they lose Chris Carson…

Re-sign Carlos Hyde.

The biggest knock against Hyde will be age; he’ll turn 31 during the 2021 season. Of the three players on this list, I feel least confident Seattle will re-sign him. But for the right price, there’s one clear incentive: Hyde and Carson are the most experienced starters.

In an ideal world, the Seahawks would turn to Rashaad Penny, a former first round pick, but he’s been unable to stay healthy. That’s limited him to just 823 career yards (and only three appearances in 2020). Is he a young player with plenty of promise? Yes. But if Seattle wants to hedge their bets and bring in veteran depth, Hyde’s contract would be significantly more cap-friendly than Carson’s.

If they move on from K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, or Carlos Dunlap…

Re-sign Benson Mayowa.

First thing to note here: Dunlap isn’t actually a free agent, but his 2021 salary isn’t guaranteed, meaning Seattle could release him to clear space. There are a few reasons they shouldn’t do that – Brock Huard explores them here – but we’ll focus on Mayowa right now.

The announcement of Mayowa’s signing last year wasn’t met with a ton of fanfare in part because so many fans were waiting, and hoping, for an update on Jadeveon Clowney. As it turns out, Mayowa was the better investment. Mayowa finished with six sacks (six more than Clowney) seven tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 13 appearances.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.