Analysis: Seahawks Execute Near-Perfect Trade to Land Veteran DE Carlos Dunlap
Less than a week away from the NFL trade deadline, the Seahawks absolutely needed to make a move to improve their dreadful pass rush. On Wednesday, general manager John Schneider did just that, orchestrating a deal with the Bengals to acquire veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
Schneider has rightfully been under fire in recent weeks, as the Seahawks offseason plan to address their pass rushing woes has backfired tremendously. The team didn't re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, instead signing Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin to one-year contracts in March and using a pair of draft picks on Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
So far, those moves haven't paid off. Irvin tore his ACL in Week 2 and landed on season-ending injured reserve, while Mayowa has produced just 2.0 sacks and four quarterback hits in six starts. As for the rookies, Taylor hasn't even practiced yet as he continues to recover from offseason leg surgery and Robinson has only played 99 defensive snaps, producing a sack and a quarterback hit.
As a result, with only 9.0 sacks through six games, the Seahawks are currently on pace for just 24.0 sacks as a team. Calling the production disappointing would be an understatement, as that total would be four less than last year when the pass rush was considered the team's biggest weakness.
But by acquiring Dunlap, Schneider has a chance to redeem himself for his prior mistakes. Though the veteran only has a sack and four quarterback hits this season and lost playing time in recent weeks to younger players, he's been one of the NFL's most consistent all-around defensive ends since entering the league in 2010.
Drafted in the second round out of Florida that year, Dunlap has produced at least 7.5 sacks in eight of his 10 prior seasons, including each of the past seven. He's registered at least 21 quarterback hits each season since 2013 and produced a grand total of 49 pass deflections from 2013 to 2019, proving he can be highly disruptive as a rusher even when he doesn't get to the quarterback.
Dunlap has also been a stout run defender throughout his career, producing 490 combined tackles, 103 tackles for loss, and 20 forced fumbles. According to Pro Football Focus, he has the 10th-best run defense grade (86.3) in the NFL since 2010.
Based on his underwhelming production through the first seven games of the season, it isn't hard to understand why some wouldn't view the Dunlap trade as a game-changer. But even at 31 years old, this deal has the chance to become just that for the Seahawks, especially considering what they gave up to acquire him.
Schneider was able to unload one of his worst offseason signings in B.J. Finney, who after signing a two-year, $8 million deal didn't play a single offensive snap in six games after being beat out by Ethan Pocic for the center job in training camp. By managing to trade him, Seattle created $2.5 million in cap relief, which helps Dunlap's $4.89 million cap hit.
In addition to Finney, the Seahawks only had to give up a seventh-round draft pick, leaving them with a second rounder, two fourth rounders, and a fifth rounder for the 2021 NFL Draft. Any way you slice it, that's a great deal for a proven pass rusher who still has two years left under contract.
Even if Dunlap isn't the same player who averaged nearly 9.0 sacks per season since 2013, his presence will instantly improve Seattle's defense both against the run and the pass playing either defensive end spot. Unhappy with his situation in Cincinnati, joining a Super Bowl contender should rejuvenate the 11th year veteran, allowing him to make an immediate impact that could have a positive ripple effect on the rest of the defense.