Since arriving as the franchise's eighth coach in 2010, coach Pete Carroll has consistently developed top-tier secondary talent with the Seahawks.
Interestingly, with the exception of former first-round pick Earl Thomas, most of the stars who have emerged in Seattle's secondary over the years arrived in town as unheralded late round picks or undrafted free agents. Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were each fifth round selections, while Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane were sixth rounders and DeShawn Shead wasn't drafted at all.
Due to the overwhelming success Carroll and his staff have had molding their own draft picks, the Seahawks have rarely dipped into free agency or the trade market to acquire established veteran defensive backs. Over the years, this has been particularly true at the cornerback position.
Why? Due to issues adopting Seattle's "kick-step" technique among other things, failed signings such as Cary Williams back in 2015 deterred the front office from making similar moves in recent seasons. The organization didn't want history to repeat itself.
But after starter Tre Flowers struggled mightily in the playoffs, the Seahawks knew they needed to be in the market for a potential upgrade. General manager John Schneider made those intentions clear with his not-so-optimistic remarks about the state of the secondary at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Once the Redskins began shopping disgruntled cornerback Quinton Dunbar last month, Schneider decided to go into attack mode. Pulling a magic trick he's done countless times, he found a way to land a potential starter in the prime of his career at a key position in exchange for just a fifth-round pick.
Standing 6-foot-2 with 32 5/8-inch arms, the 27-year old Dunbar checks off numerous boxes the Seahawks look for from their outside cornerbacks. He's a former receiver who uses that background to his advantage in coverage to help create turnovers, possesses legitimate 4.44 40-yard dash speed and athleticism, and plays with the competitive fire the team craves.
In just 11 starts in 2019, Dunbar finished with four interceptions and held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 68.4. He was the second-highest graded cornerback on Pro Football Focus behind only Sherman, a player he idolized growing up watching the "Legion of Boom."
“I wasn’t a DB at the time, but the Legion of Boom, watching Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman," Dunbar said in an interview with ESPN 710's Danny and Gallant. "When I made that transition, I watched a lot of film on Richard Sherman and things of that nature. I know they’ve got great history there and I’m just looking forward to being part of that secondary and helping out all I can.”
Injuries have been a bit problematic for Dunbar, who missed 14 games and landed on season-ending injured reserve each of the past two seasons. But for those who may be concerned about him struggling to adapt as Williams did five years ago, he already looks to be ahead of the curve after mastering a new position over his first five NFL seasons.
Citing his experience working with former Seahawks safety and assistant coach Marquand Manuel and others, Dunbar indicated he's already familiar with the kick-step technique and doesn't think he'll have any issues acclimating with his new team.
“When making that transition, I watched a lot of his film and I’m not new to some of the thing that they do in Seattle, which I already implement in my game with the step-kick and stuff like that.”
Unhappy about Washington's unwillingness to work with him on an extension and feeling disrespected by the organization, Dunbar demanded a trade in February. Looking over his options, Seattle looked to be his best option for a fresh start in a scheme catered well to his strengths.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, the Seahawks are taking a bit of a gamble on Dunbar, especially considering Shaquill Griffin is also entering the final year of his rookie deal. There's a chance the two corners could be competing against each other for one long-term contract.
Regardless, Dunbar doesn't see the tensions that ended his time with the Redskins being a lingering problem with the Seahawks. He's eager for the opportunity to help his new team win games and can't wait to get started.
“At the end of the day, I feel like it’s a perfect situation for me to go play for a team that competes for championships every year. I’m just looking forward to that and everything will take care of itself. I just wanted a new beginning, and I’m just going to go out there help Seattle whichever way I can.”