Clayton: Why it’s ‘very favorable’ that Seahawks will re-sign Carlos Dunlap

Mar 22, 2021, 9:30 AM | Updated: 10:20 am

Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap...

Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap is still available after one week of free agency. (Getty)


The Seahawks have made some pretty notable moves this offseason, such as re-signing starting running back Chris Carson and trading for veteran guard Gabe Jackson. But the defensive side of the ball has been pretty quiet.

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Seattle lost starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin to the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year deal, but they found a potential replacement for him in Ahkello Witherspoon. One area on defense that has seen no action, though, is the pass rush.

Last year, all offseason talk was centered on how the Seahawks would be able to fix what was one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL in 2019. During that season, Seattle tallied just 28 sacks, which was tied for the second-fewest in the NFL.

Last offseason, the Seahawks failed to re-sign defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and instead signed Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin in free agency and traded for safety Jamal Adams. The defense got off to a cold start in terms of the pass rush, accumulating just 12 sacks through seven games, but that area of play improved and the Seahawks finished with the seventh-most sacks in the league with 46.

A big part of the pass rush’s turnaround was a mid-season trade for veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who had five sacks in eight games for the Seahawks. In those eight games, Seattle had 31 sacks.

But due to salary cap issues, Seattle released Dunlap earlier this offseason as he was set to make over $14 million this upcoming season.

It’s been thought all offseason that the Seahawks would like to bring Dunlap back for 2021, but it was unclear whether that would happen, especially after veteran pass rusher J.J. Watt signed a deal worth over $15 million annually with the Arizona Cardinals.

But according to “The Professor” John Clayton, Seattle appears to be in a good spot in terms of landing Dunlap or at least one other impact pass rusher this offseason. He explained why to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Monday morning.

We brought up Clowney earlier, and while a reunion with him could be in the cards for the Seahawks, Clayton thinks Clowney will likely be more expensive than Dunlap or other available pass rushers.

“I can’t see Clowney taking what’s probably going to be a lower deal (than he made in 2020),” Clayton said, referencing Clowney’s $13 million deal with the Titans. “That’s just not Clowney’s nature. And right now, the market is probably in that $4 million range.”

But what about Dunlap?

“I know Dunlap is probably thinking about getting $10 million, but he’s not going to get it,” Clayton said.

The salary cap decreased from $198 million to $182.5 million this year, which has resulted in many shorter contracts as well as players having their deals restructured to open up cap space for 2021. Clayton said that only 16 players have signed deals worth more than $10 million annually in unrestricted free agency so far. Typically, that number would be closer to 25. That hurts Dunlap and helps the Seahawks, Clayton said.

“If Dunlap thinks he’s going to get (more than $10 million a year at age 32), there’s no way that’s going to happen,” he said.

The Seahawks run a 4-3 defense with four defensive linemen and three linebackers, and Clayton said that most teams that run a 4-3 defense have already taken care of the defensive end position this offseason. That also helps Seattle’s chances when it comes to reuniting not only with Dunlap, but another top pass rusher from a year ago.

“I think it’s very favorable for Dunlap to come back, Benson Mayowa to come back,” he said.

Another name to potentially watch? Former Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler with 49 career sacks who is also an unrestricted free agent.

“We’ll see about Ingram, because Ingram is out there visiting (teams) right now and he’s a good pass rusher,” Clayton said. “… What you look at at the moment, the market is pretty (much) done. We’re at that stage where you have a few guys that can get above the (veteran minimum salary), but just about everyone else is going to be at the minimum salary.”

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