Seriously. Get outside today, and shout it in the streets, and shout it to the sky. Then run back inside quickly because we are in a shelter in situation. The Seattle Seahawks made a trade that fixed their cornerback situation for the 2020 season.
Let us break it down.
Why Quinton Dundar is a big deal for Seattle
Slightly under looked last season because Seattle’s pass rush was so nada, was the weak secondary play at corner and nickel. Simply put, Pete Carroll did not trust what he had on the field. Thus, he chose to do two things that annoyed a lot of Seahawk fans, inspiring many of them to decide that he had gotten too old and the game had surpassed him (total nonsense). He chose to keep his base defense on the field for the majority of the time because he felt his three linebackers provided better coverage than his nickel corners, and he called softer coverage because he didn’t trust his corners (likely Tre Flowers) to play aggressive bump coverage against receivers.
Because Pete Carroll’s golden rule on defense is to not get beaten over the top, these decisions gave most quarterbacks the opportunity to dump the ball off quickly with the short passing game. This allowed most offenses, even the bad ones, to march the ball up field with relative ease. Once they got in the red zone, however, Seattle’s defense was able to tighten by using the back of the end zone as an extra defender, and often times, this would result in the offense settling for a field goal or turning the ball over. As bad as Seattle’s defense was, they were actually a decent red zone squad (kinda oddly).
Thus, 2019 showcased a Seattle defense that was the ultimate definition of a “bend don’t break” group, and I’m quite positive that the head coach was just as unsatisfied with it as most fans were. For all the talk about how Seattle could not generate a pass rush (even with Jadeveon Clowney added), Seattle’s situation at corner and nickel was crippling to that pass rush. Had Carroll had the level of play he needed at corner, he very likely would have called more aggressive coverages, he would have had a nickel defender on the field more often than not during obvious passing situations, this would have very likely taken away shorter route options for quarterbacks, and that all would have led to more sacks for the defense. During his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, Carroll flat out stated that a big part of fixing the pass rush was fixing the play in the secondary.
Enter Quinton Dundar who Pro Football Focus graded as the second best corner in the game last year by his level of play, behind only one Richard Sherman. This is a significant move by Seattle to fix the position. This move gives Seattle a quality starter opposite of Shaquill Griffin, it allows them to play more nickel, and ultimately to play more aggressively.
Like Sherman, Dundar is a long lean corner who was a former receiver in college. He understands route concepts and that affords him the ability to play aggressively with confidence. This is a huge deal for Seattle’s defense in 2020 with the Arizona Cardinals adding all world reciever DeAndre Hopkins, the Rams still being loaded at receiver, and the 49ers likely to add a quality receiver with a deep draft class next month. Seattle needed to make a move like this, and they should be congratulated by addressing this position aggressively with a proven veteran with pro bowl potential still in his prime.
Why was Dunbar available for a mere 5th round pick?
This is a good question to ask yourself. For one thing, Dunbar comes was an injury history. That doesn’t appear to scare Seattle, though, as last year they traded for Jadeveon Clowney who has an extensive injury history of his own. This injury history likely drove his market down, as there are also decent corners still available on the free agent market.
The other thing that likely made this move a pretty affordable one is that he is on the last year of the three year deal he had with Washington, and was demanding either an extension with the club, or to be traded. Thus he was forcing his way out of DC, and it became a buyer’s market for his services.
Still, it was just last week that Denver traded for pro bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and sent a mere seventh round pick to Tennessee for his services, and last year Seattle sent a 5th round pick to Detroit for pro bowl alternate safety Quandre Diggs. Often times there is great value to be had with trades when teams are looking to unload veterans that are either deemed too expensive or too discontent. Like Diggs last year, Seattle took advantage of the situation and acted.
What does this mean for Seattle signing Clowney or another quality veteran pass rusher?
It’s tough to know just how much this impacts a potential Clowney signing. Dunbar’s contract isn’t an expensive one. So it is highly possible to fit Clowney and maybe one more veteran pass rusher under the cap after a little juggling.
However, since Dunbar is coming to Seattle was only one year left on his deal, Seattle might want more flexibility to sign him long term if he proves to be a great fit. Seattle also has Shaquill Griffin playing in a contract year and probably wants to extend him, as well. Thus, from this perspective, Seattle might be angling to bring in veteran pass rushers on short term deals, and should Clowney find a longer term deal greater than what Seattle is offering, he could be out-y.
However, thus far, Clowney hasn’t found that deal, and as the days go by, it feels more and more unlikely that he will, as other teams are making moves that are shrinking their salary cap space. There is still a pretty realistic chance that he returns to Seattle on a short term deal that will allow him to re-enter the market next year for a chance at landing the big contract that he is seeking. There is also a pretty realistic chance that, as the days go by, resentment towards Seattle grows more with Clowney, and he chooses a shorter term deal elsewhere.
Should Clowney ultimately decide to leave Seattle, I think Everson Griffin, Benson Mayowa, Michael Bennett, and Jabaal Sheard all become likely targets, and Seattle might look to bring in a couple of these guys. Either way, it would be great to see this resolve soon. I still give it about a 50/50 chance Clowney returns.
With this addition of Dunbar, though, I will say this. I am becoming less concerned about Seattle’s pass rush in 2020. Even if they were to only add Mayowa and maybe one of the other veteran pass rushers not named Clowney, Seattle’s ability to play more aggressive on the back end of their defense will allow for better pass rush.
Another thing to keep in mind; they have invested relatively high picks over the last few years in LJ Collier and Rasheem Green that they would ideally like to see takeover as starters. Signing a couple veterans to longer deals probably shrinks the likelihood of either doing that.
So as the tea leaves begin to really settle in, it seems more and more likely that Seattle will settle by signing proven vets on short terms, and then probably looking to add more through the draft. This draft class is not considered a deep one for the defensive line, however, so if Seattle is going to do that, expect them to take a defensive lineman early this April.
But that is then, and this is now, and I say “welcome to Seattle, Quinton Dunbar!”
Blessed be, and go Hawks.