It all began last week, when the Seattle Seahawks re-signed defensive end Carlos Dunlap to a two-year contract worth $16.6 million. After being traded by the Cincinnati Bengals last season, Dunlap had agreed to restructure his existing contract— as long as the Seahawks would agree that in the coming offseason, they would release him so he could test free agency if they couldn’t immediately come to terms.
As it turned out, they couldn’t — so true to their word, the team released Dunlap on March 8, clearing $14.1 million in cap space from the final year of his contract.
A week after free agency began, Dunlap had not found a better situation for himself — so he agreed to return to Seattle. But his re-signing created a problem for the Seahawks: the new deal had chewed up a good chunk of the space they had created by releasing him in the first place.
So the team approached Reed about doing a simple restructure to the final year of his contract. It would have converted $8 million of his $9 million 2021 compensation into signing bonus that the team would spread out over an additional two or three years by adding voidable “dummy” years to the deal — a cap-space device that has been utilized by numerous NFL teams during this particular offseason.
Since these kinds of restructures don’t actually affect when — or how much — a player is paid, players are usually happy to accept them. But according to ESPN’s Brady Henderson, Reed had other ideas.
Reed’s agent was in favor of the restructure, according to a source. But Reed was insistent on getting an actual extension from the Seahawks, believing he had earned one after becoming a prominent piece of their defense. When the Seahawks declined, Reed asked if they would promise him a new deal down the road, which they did not.
So almost immediately after re-signing Dunlap, Seattle made it known that Reed would either be traded or released. After the Seahawks couldn’t find a trading partner, Reed hit the bricks — and the Chiefs scooped him up with a one-year contract that will guarantee him just $5 million this season, but also includes as much as $2 million in incentives.
Reed has been widely criticized for “leaving millions on the table” in Seattle. But this story demonstrates that while NFL players mostly care about the money they are being paid, there are still moments when money can take a back seat.