After being released by the franchise earlier this month as a cap casualty, veteran pass rusher Carlos Dunlap will be returning to the Seahawks after all.
Hours after defensive tackle Jarran Reed tweeted that his time in Seattle will be coming to an end, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Dunlap has reached an agreement with the team on a two-year deal worth up to $16.6 million. The deal includes $8.8 million in guaranteed money.
Acquired from the Bengals for a seventh-round pick and reserve center B.J. Finney in late October, Dunlap helped instantly transformed one of the NFL's worst pass rushes into a formidable unit. In eight regular season games following the trade, he generated 5.0 sacks and 14 quarterback hits on his own accord, while the Seahawks finished with the most sacks in the league from Week 9 on.
Dunlap also came through in the clutch on numerous occasions, saving his sacks for pivotal moments late in close games. He brought down elusive Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray for a game-ending fourth down sack in Week 11. Four weeks later against Washington, he recorded a critical sack late in the fourth quarter to help Seattle survive with a 20-15 road win.
Interestingly, no player may have benefited more from Dunlap's arrival than Reed, who had 5.5 sacks over the final nine regular season games and also sacked Jared Goff twice in a wild card loss to the Rams. Unfortunately, fitting both of them into the Seahawks tight salary cap situation wasn't feasible and Reed is expected to be released or traded in coming days.
Turning 32 years old in February, Dunlap has been one of the most underrated defensive ends in the NFL since being drafted by Cincinnati in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In 11 prior seasons, he's produced 87.5 sacks, 241 quarterback hits, 20 forced fumbles, and 62 pass deflections. Using his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame to his advantage he also been stout against the run throughout his career, racking up 504 tackles and 109 tackles for loss.
With Dunlap's return, the Seahawks should have quite the arsenal at both defensive end spots. The team agreed to terms with former 49ers starter Kerry Hyder on a three-year contract on March 23 and he's expected to take over as the new starter at the 5-tech position. Behind Dunlap and Hyder, Benson Mayowa was re-signed, Rasheem Green will be back for his fourth season, and second-year rushers Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson will also be ready to take on increased roles in the rotation.
As for L.J. Collier, who started 16 games at the base end spot in 2020, the former first-round pick will likely see the bulk of his work inside as a defensive tackle to help offset Reed's departure. Second-year defender Cedrick Lattimore should also see more opportunities in the interior after a stellar six-tackle NFL debut in the postseason and will likely rotate in with starters Poona Ford and Bryan Mone.