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Seahawks Carlos Dunlap
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Seahawks release DE Carlos Dunlap as salary cap casualty

Carlos Dunlap had five sacks in eight games following a trade to the Seahawks. (Getty)

If the Seahawks are going to have Carlos Dunlap lead their pass rush again next season, they’ll have to sign him back out of free agency.

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ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday morning that the Seahawks planned to release Dunlap, a move that is not all that surprising given the situation the team is facing regarding the NFL’s shrinking salary cap. Dunlap’s release was made official Monday afternoon.

Dunlap, 32, carried a salary cap hit of over $14 million for 2020, though the fact that it was not guaranteed made him a prime candidate to be a cap casualty. He joined the Seahawks last year in a midseason trade from the Cincinnati Bengals, agreeing to rework his contract for the remainder of the 2020 season. ESPN’s Field Yates reported at the time that Dunlap was $4.59 million after the trade but cut it down to about $2 million.

The Seahawks’ struggling pass rush was revived after the acquisition of Dunlap. Not only did he have five sacks in eight games with Seattle, but the Seahawks rose up the team ranks in the second half of the season to finish seventh in the NFL with 46 sacks.

While there was speculation that the Seahawks would try to sign Dunlap to a contract extension that would lower his salary cap number for 2021, it appears that by letting Dunlap loose on the market they have the hope of bringing him back on a cheaper deal. That could be easier said than done, however, especially after J.J. Watt signed with NFC West rival Arizona for $15 million a year last week.

According to the Seahawks.com story about Dunlap’s release, the 11-year NFL veteran “agreed to restructure his contract last year in order to facilitate the trade with the understanding that he would get to test free agency if he and the Seahawks couldn’t agree to a contract extension.”

The NFL salary cap is set to go down by roughly $15 million from last year’s $198 million following the entire 2020 season being played during the pandemic. The Seahawks have under $5 million in cap space, per OverTheCap’s estimate, and with over 20 players hitting free agency, they clearly need to free up money to make sure they can address all the positional needs they will have this offseason.

Brock Huard, NFL on FOX color commentator and 710 ESPN Seattle host, spoke last week about why the chances were high that Dunlap would be released due to Seattle’s salary cap issues. You can read what he had to say here.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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