CINCINNATI — The Bengals‘ career sack leader is on the move.
The Seahawks’ defense has allowed the most yards of any team through six games in NFL history, and their pass rush has been a primary issue. The unit has only nine sacks through six games and didn’t even register an official hit on Kyler Murray during an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.
Due to having to go through COVID-19 protocols, the earliest Dunlap could make his Seahawks debut is Week 9 at Buffalo.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous as hell but I’m excited,” Dunlap said on Instagram story about joining the Seahawks. “… It’s all up from here. It’s all up from here. Let’s go. I get to play. Above all, I get to play.”
The trade ends a Cincinnati saga that spiraled past its breaking point Wednesday, when the Bengals asked Dunlap not to come to the team’s facilities as they sought a trading partner, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini, confirming a report by NFL Network.
Dunlap, 31, had two years remaining on a contract extension that was set to expire at the end of the 2021 season. However, the likelihood of Dunlap finishing his career in Cincinnati diminished after the events of recent weeks.
The 2010 second-round draft pick had grown increasingly frustrated with his role in the Bengals’ defense and had come off the bench in the past three games. At the end of the team’s 37-34 loss to the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Dunlap went after defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo regarding his playcalling, according to a source.
The defensive end also posted a property listing minutes after the loss on social media in posts that were later deleted.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor called a news conference Wednesday evening after the trade became official.
“Carlos has done a lot of great things for this organization and the community. He deserves to go out the right way,” Taylor said. “He’s being sent to a team that’s really a great organization. They’re in the hunt right now. They’ve got a great record and he’ll have a chance to help.”
For the bulk of Dunlap’s 11-year tenure with the Bengals, he was one of the team’s most effective edge rushers. He tallied 82.5 sacks with Cincinnati and reached the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016. Between 2014 and 2018, Dunlap started every regular-season game.
However, a scheme change under Taylor altered Dunlap’s role within the defense. By the middle of Taylor’s second season, the situation had become untenable, which prompted the trade to Seattle.
“Carlos had many fine seasons here and showed rare physical talent that took him to multiple Pro Bowls,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement. “I will always remember the role he played as a key part of exceptional defenses that we rode to the playoffs year after year. There are a lot of fond memories I have of Carlos, and I wish him well.”
Dunlap’s 2018 extension holds an $11 million salary-cap hit this year and a $13.4 million hit in 2021. If Cincinnati had cut Dunlap next year, the Bengals would have saved $11.1 million against the cap.
The Seahawks (5-1) were unsuccessful in their bid to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney in March, instead bringing back Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa on value deals and drafting Darrell Taylor in the second round.
Irvin suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2, Taylor is still on the non-football injury list and Mayowa is tied for the team lead in sacks with two. Seattle has also been without Rasheem Green for most of the season due to a neck injury that landed him on IR, though he’s on his way back.
As much as the Seahawks needed to bolster their pass rush, their ability to trade for an impact player was limited by their salary-cap constraints. They’re also low on 2021 draft capital after trading their first- and third-round picks for safety Jamal Adams. Seattle also isn’t projected to receive any compensatory selections in this coming draft.
One source told ESPN that the Seahawks were wary of trading for a high-priced player in the final year of his deal, since that would mean giving up already limited draft capital for a half-season rental.
Finney was projected to be the Seahawks’ starting center when they gave him a two-year, $8 million deal in March, but Ethan Pocic earned the job. Finney is making $2.5 million in base salary this season, so Seattle will get a little cap relief there.
“We’re excited to get Finney in the building here,” Taylor said. “We’ve watched him play over the years from afar, and we like what we’re adding to the offensive line with him. He has good veteran experience and provides us with needed versatility.”
ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.