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Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap
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Huard: Seahawks likely have to cut Carlos Dunlap, let him test the market

The Seahawks could save over $14 million in cap space by releasing DE Carlos Dunlap. (Getty)

We’re just a few weeks away from free agency kicking off and for the Seahawks, they have some work to do in order to be active in the upcoming market.

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The salary cap for each NFL team is set to go down by roughly $15 million for 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the salary cap was $198 million. Currently, the Seahawks have under $5 million in available cap according to OverTheCap’s estimate.

What doesn’t help matters is that the Seahawks have over 20 players hitting unrestricted free agency, including multiple key starters, as well as a star quarterback who is unhappy with the team’s pass protection and wants better offensive linemen. Someone who could help clear some space is defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

Dunlap, 32, came to the Seahawks in a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals ahead of the 2020 trade deadline. In eight games, Dunlap recorded five sacks. On top of his personal numbers, Dunlap helped turn Seattle’s pass rush from one of the NFL’s worst into one that finished seventh in sacks with 46. Most of those sacks came after Dunalp’s first game with the Seahawks in Week 9.

Currently, Dunlap is set to make just over $14 million in 2021, but none of that salary is guaranteed. That means Seattle could save $14 million by releasing him, or the Seahawks could extend him and spread that money out and lessen his cap hit for 2021. They could also release him and try to sign him back at a cheaper number.

Former NFL quarterback Brock Huard thinks that Seattle ultimately will have to cut Dunlap and hope he agrees to come back.

“That’s probably what you’re going to have to do as challenging as that’s going to be,” Huard told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Monday. “And then what is the market out there willing to pay?”

Even if the Seahawks release Dunlap with a clear intention that they want him to return, there’s no guarantee that happens. Other teams with more cap and a need for a proven pass rusher could throw more money Dunlap’s way than Seattle can currently offer.

Huard noted that Dunlap “bet on himself” when he came to the Seahawks because he restructured his deal to lessen his 2020 cap hit so he could be on the roster and make the trade work. Now, Huard wouldn’t be surprised if he gets pretty well compensated for his production by either the Seahawks or another team.

“He got traded for, he moved money around and said, ‘Fine, I’ll do that, I’ll bet on myself and I’m going to be productive,'” Huard said. “And he was incredibly productive and when you’re that productive, you set yourself up and put yourself in a situation where unless Seattle’s going to blow him out of the water, which they don’t normally do with guys of his age, (he can get paid on the open market).”

The Seahawks likely have “a number the feel pretty good about” when it comes to Dunlap’s value, and Huard believes Seattle and Dunlap’s camp have likely had preliminary talks regarding either a contract extension or a plan to cut him and try to sign him to a different deal. But if Dunlap’s market shows other teams are willing to pay more for his services, Huard thinks the Seahawks have too many other needs that would take priority over paying Dunlap.

“‘This is where we’re willing to go and if the market just explodes, then we can’t do that. We’ve got Jamal Adams and we have a corner and we may have an O-lineman and we have a running back (to sign). We’ve got a lot of other pieces to address,'” Huard said of the way the Seahawks likely will approach the situation.

Paul Gallant said that with Dunlap being 32 and having played on a mediocre Bengals team for most of his career, he may be chasing a Super Bowl ring. Gallant thinks that at least one playoff-caliber team will make a run at Dunlap if the Seahawks allow him to hit the market.

Huard agreed, but said that the Seahawks’ ongoing situation with star quarterback Russell Wilson may be “more detrimental” to Dunlap’s chances of returning to Seattle than another team, even though by all accounts, Dunlap has loved his time with the Seahawks and wants it to continue.

“If Dunlap’s like ‘dang, why is Russell not happy here? Why does Russell not like this? Why is Russell seeing these issues? I thought this was pretty sweet and I kind of enjoyed the ride,'” Huard said. “But I think all signs point to the market is going to get an opportunity to tell Carlos Dunlap what the market thinks he’s worth.”

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