While Jadeveon Clowney remained unsigned Monday, the Seahawks did make one significant move, dealing a fifth-round draft choice to Washington for cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
Dunbar is entering the final season of a three-year contract with Washington and had let it be known he preferred to be traded if the team was not going to redo his deal. Dunbar is due to make $3.25 million in 2020 with a salary cap hit of $4.4 million overall. Seattle will inherit roughly $3.4 million of that cap hit, with Washington still on the hook for $1 million in bonus money.
The trade was first reported by Josina Anderson of ESPN with others then confirming the details. A source confirmed the details of the trade to The Seattle Times.
Dunbar entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Washington in 2015 as a receiver and was then switched to cornerback.
Dunbar had four interceptions in 11 games last year and was beginning to be touted as a candidate for the Pro Bowl before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury. Dunbar played just seven games in 2018 due to a nerve condition in his leg.
The injuries likely factored in to Washington’s reluctance to offer him the long-term contract he desired. But when healthy last season, Dunbar was considered among the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus tabbed Dunbar as the most improved player on the Washington roster in 2019, writing: “Dunbar does have some leverage if he wants a new contract, given what we saw from him on the field in 2019. His 87.6 PFF grade ranked second among cornerbacks behind only Richard Sherman, and he allowed just 29 of the 52 passes into his coverage to be completed while intercepting four and breaking up another four. Dunbar had been solid in limited roles before, but 2019 was a marked improvement in play from the former undrafted free agent out of Florida.”
The pick Seattle traded for Dunbar is one that it acquired last fall from Pittsburgh in a trade for tight end Nick Vannett. The trade leaves Seattle with seven selections in the 2020 draft.
Dunbar is listed at 6 feet 2, 205 pounds and measured with a 32 5/8-inch arm length coming out of Florida. His size fits the Seattle strategy of liking big cornerbacks with long arms. He played both left and right cornerback during his Washington years, in which he was often paired with Josh Norman.
Seattle returns both of its starting cornerbacks — left corner Shaquill Griffin and right corner Tre Flowers.
But Griffin is entering the final season of his rookie contract and Flowers struggled down the stretch in 2019 in his second season in the league after having played safety at Oklahoma State.
The addition of Dunbar gives Seattle some depth and competition for Flowers and potential options down the road. But the cap number — the sixth-highest for any Seattle defender behind Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Jarran Reed, Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs — suggests Dunbar will have a significant role somewhere in 2020.
Seattle also has uncertainty at its nickel corner spot where the Seahawks used three different players last year but also often left linebacker Mychal Kendricks on the field.
Ugo Amadi, who ended the season as the nickel, returns and is the leader for the spot of those on the current roster. But Seattle could maybe experiment with using a bigger nickel. Akeem King, who was used a few times last year as a “big” nickel, is a free agent.
Flowers, though, figures to be the current Seahawk most impacted by the addition of Dunbar.
Flowers was tied for the team lead in interceptions in 2019 with three but faded down the stretch. He was called for two pass interference penalties in Seattle’s victory over Philadelphia in the wild-card round and then beaten on several critical plays in the season-ending divisional playoff defeat at Green Bay.
“It was hard on him yesterday,” Carroll said of Flowers on the day after the Green Bay game, saying he told him in an exit meeting that “we’ve got to come back better next year and capitalize on all of the experiences and settle in.’’
Carroll spoke more positively of Flowers last month at the NFL combine, saying “there’s no reason that he shouldn’t with the experience that he’s had, all the play time that he’s gathered in, he should be ready to make a good step forward.”
But the addition of Dunbar shows Seattle isn’t relying solely on hoped-for improvement to try to bolster the secondary as part of an effort to shore up a defense that ranked as the worst of the Carroll era other than in his first season as Seattle’s coach in 2010.
Seattle allowed the second most yards in team history (6,106) in ranking 26th overall in total defense in the NFL (381.6 yards allowed per game).