Zac Taylor on Dunlap trade to Seahawks: ‘I wish the best for him’

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) blocks against the Cleveland Browns during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Cleveland. Cincinnati won 31-7. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) blocks against the Cleveland Browns during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Cleveland. Cincinnati won 31-7. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Veteran defensive end was unhappy with his decreased role in Cincinnati

Free safety Jessie Bates said it was probably best for all parties involved that the Cincinnati Bengals move on from Carlos Dunlap to wipe the slate clean for everybody.

The Bengals traded the disgruntled defensive end to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a 2021 seventh-round draft pick Wednesday. The deal was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, and the Bengals officially announced it Wednesday afternoon.

“I mean, people get traded, people get released every year, and unfortunately, it happened in the middle of the year for Carlos, so yeah, it’s just a weird situation,” Bates said.

Cincinnati has made just one other in-season trade since 1985 – dealing quarterback Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders in 2011. However, just like it was with Palmer, a move was necessary.

Dunlap, 31, had made his frustrations with the coaching staff known publicly since he was demoted from a starting defensive end role to a third-down situational pass rusher. He questioned the coaches' decision Oct. 8 in a Zoom news conference with media, posted the depth chart for the Week 7 matchup against Cleveland on Instagram the day before Sunday’s 37-34 loss and was seen getting into a verbal argument on the sidelines at the end of the game. He then posted on social media about his house going up for sale while other players were still conducting post-game interviews.

The 2010 second-round draft pick played just 12 snaps Sunday and had seen a decrease in playing time each week since getting action on a season-high 82 percent of the defensive snaps in a tie against the Eagles on Sept. 27.

During a special online news conference Wednesday evening to discuss the trade, Bengals coach Zac Taylor thanked Dunlap for his contributions to the organization of his 11-year career and wished him the best. However, he did not wish to comment on why it wasn’t possible to salvage things with Dunlap in Cincinnati.

Dunlap – who since deleted his house listing post – was under contract through 2021 and making about $13.55 million a year.

“Carlos has done a lot of great things for this organization and the community,” Taylor said when asked why he felt the need to address the trade in a press conference. “He deserves to go out the right way. 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. Just because you have a disagreement and frustration doesn’t mean (garbled) …. I wish the best for him.”

Taylor said the move isn’t necessarily a sign the Bengals are moving away from older players and on to younger ones. When asked if it puts more pressure on him to get results after seeing the organization continue to do things against its norms – like spending more in free agency and making trades, Taylor said “I sure hope so.”

“When you are the head coach of an NFL team, you better have some urgency to go win some football games and feel that pressure,” Taylor said. “That’s fine with me.”

The trade occurs less than a week before the Nov. 3 deadline and brings in a much-needed body for the offensive line, which ended Sunday with three more starters injured. Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo has been out since injuring his ankle in the season opener, and now Jonah Williams (neck) and Trey Hopkins (concussion) are “day-to-day” and Bobby Hart (knee) is out for this Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

Finney, who makes a guaranteed $2.5 million this year, was an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State in 2015 and signed his first contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played 59 games through 2019. A career backup lineman who has played all three interior positions, Finney appeared in six games for Seattle this season and was listed as their backup center.

The Seahawks were looking to add to their pass rush, and Dunlap brings with him 82.5 sacks in 10-plus seasons with the Bengals. He finishes one sack shy of tying the franchise sack record, which belongs to Eddie Edwards. Cincinnati will continue to try to find more pressure from its young players who are now stepping up with Dunlap out of the picture and Sam Hubbard still out with an elbow injury.

“That’s unfortunate obviously,” Bates said. “I think Carlos is a good person, and I’m just happy that he’s in another situation where maybe he’s gonna have some success.”

Bates said he didn’t feel like Dunlap was disrupting Taylor’s culture, which has focused on team building, and his situation wasn’t a distraction in the locker room or to what the other players are doing in terms of preparation for Tennessee.

“I think when you have these types of things come into the locker room, people avoid it honestly,” Bates said. “We just don’t talk about it. We have one goal and that’s to win every week so whether that was Carlos on the field with us or not. I think our goal was to win the game and there wasn’t any distraction.”

Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow wasn’t aware of the trade yet when he spoke to media Wednesday afternoon and he hadn’t spoken to Dunlap this week. However, he indicated Dunlap had helped him establish a routine and figure out how to take care of his body during training camp and through the beginning of the season.

Bates shared a similar account of how Dunlap helped him adjust to the NFL as a young player.

“I think the biggest thing Carlos has taught me is, learn from other guys,” Bates said. “Obviously, Carlos has been in the league for a long time. He’s a really good player, but you know he’s taught me a lot, about more than just football, off the field and just knowing the city of Cincinnati and just knowing the business of the NFL. Like I said, I have nothing but good things to say about Carlos. I know things didn’t work out here for him at the end, but I’m sure he will have a lot of success.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Titans at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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