Brian Gutekunst prefers to wait for training camp to see if any young player has developed rather than signing veteran free agents. He can always sign players, and usually does, later in the season. But the Green Bay Packers‘ edge depth is too concerning for a passive approach.
That’s why if the Packers could only sign one more player before the season starts, they should sign Carlos Dunlap.
Dunlap, 33, is an older player, but he can still be productive. Since the Cincinnati Bengals traded him to the Seattle Seahawks in the middle of the 2020 season, Dunlap has had 15 sacks. He had 6.5 in eight games in 2020, plus 8.5 last season. Dunlap also had 14 quarterback hits, seven pass deflections, and eight tackles for loss. He played in 17 games but only started in two of them.
Dunlap put up those numbers despite playing a career-low 481 snaps, or 38% of Seattle’s defensive snaps. For comparison, Jonathan Garvin was Green Bay’s third edge defender in total snaps and appeared in 36% of the defensive plays last season. Dunlap had a 72.1 PFF grade.
The Packers have some young guys who could grow into the role throughout the season. But when a team is trying to build a championship-caliber roster, it’s essential to minimize risk. Even if the front office looks excited to get Randy Ramsey back from injury, he might not be enough. Kingsley Enagbare is also a promising player. However, the Packers traded down in the end of the fifth round before selecting him. Therefore, everyone should temper their confidence in him. Jonathan Garvin and Tipa Galeai had significant amounts of snaps last season because of injuries, but it’s hard to believe they can be impactful.
Earlier in the offseason, I wrote that the Packers should re-sign Whitney Mercilus, but he ended up retiring. Other veteran free agent options exist, such as Jason Pierre-Paul and Trey Flowers. Still, signing Dunlap as a designated pass rusher would be an intelligent investment who uses a small portion of the salary cap.
Dunlap would get $ 5 million from his old contract with the Seahawks, who are in a youth movement after trading Russell Wilson. Dunlap didn’t fit Seattle’s plans anymore — they’ll prioritize Darrell Taylor, Uchenna Nwosu, and second-rounder Boye Mafe. But if the Packers can sign Dunlap for around $4 million, the same amount Melvin Ingram got last season from the Pittsburgh Steelers, he can have a similar impact to Ingram on the field.
Two weeks ago, Dunlap visited the Carolina Panthers, which shows he still wants to play. But he left Charlotte without a contract, so there is still time to make a move.
Dunlap has played in the NFL since 2010 and has had seven seasons with at least eight sacks. He’s still explosive off the line of scrimmage, despite being on the wrong side of 30. The aging effects could have an impact, but the rotational role can minimize the risk and maximize his production.
In addition to the pass-rushing skills, Dunlap has the perfect physical profile to play under defensive coordinator Joe Barry. For the last couple of years, since the transition from Dom Capers to Mike Pettine, the Packers have preferred to use heavier edge defenders who can get pressure and be reliable run defenders. Dunlap weighs 285 lbs., heavier than Gary and Preston.
Dunlap also has the skill set to play the run. PFF gave him one of the highest run grades (89.0) in 2019, his last full season with the Bengals. Last year, he earned a solid 72.8 run defense grade.
The Packers currently have $17 million in cap space. While they tend to be more patient and reactive, Dunlap could fill a void for a reasonable price and help the Packers solidify the depth at one of the most valuable positions in football.