A prominent role on defense that suits his skills. A chance to play for a perennial contender and finally taste playoff success. A fresh start following an acrimonious end to his decade-plus run with the Cincinnati Bengals.
That's why the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end said it wasn't a tough decision to rework his contract in order to make it happen.
"With the way things were going, I had full confidence and faith in betting on myself and betting with the Seahawks," Dunlap said Wednesday in his first comments since the Seahawks acquired him last week in exchange for backup offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
"Who else would I want to bet with, you know? It was like a win-win situation. At this point in my career, if I was to ever play and put on another jersey, I wanted to go to another organization where I was the last piece to help them win and get a Super Bowl."
According to ESPN's Field Yates, Dunlap agreed as part of the trade to reduce the remainder of his $7.8 million base salary for this season -- roughly $4.59 million -- down to $2 million. The Seahawks, who are just below the NFL's salary cap, added a $3 million roster bonus to Dunlap's contract that is due on the fifth day of the 2021 league year, which is in March.
Dunlap is under contract through 2021 and is due to make a nonguaranteed $10.1 million base salary next season, according to ESPN's Roster Management System. If the Seahawks cut him before the bonus is due, he would become an unrestricted free agent.
To Dunlap, it was a worthwhile tradeoff for the chance to join a team that has made the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons and currently has the NFC's best record at 6-1.
"I wanted to go where I could contribute to winning," said Dunlap, whose Bengals were 0-5 in the playoffs during his time with the team. "That way I could get the full experience and earn my keep. So I put my money where my mouth is. Now we've got to let my play speak -- my pads speak, as they would say here."
He'll get his first chance Sunday when the Seahawks play the Buffalo Bills.
Coach Pete Carroll said he doesn't see "any restriction at all" on playing Dunlap right away, noting that the week off he had to take while completing the NFL's COVID-19 intake process gave him a chance to rest.
"No concern about anything other than how he handles the learning part of it, which, he's a vet," Carroll said. "Getting through our first walk-through, he handled everything right."
Dunlap, wearing No. 43, practiced with his new team for the first time Wednesday as a full participant. He had worn No. 96 (which is retired by the Seahawks in honor of Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy) ever since Cincinnati drafted him in the second round in 2010.
Dunlap recorded a franchise-record 81.5 sacks over his first 10 seasons with the Bengals before their relationship soured as he grew increasingly frustrated with his recently diminished role. He has one sack in 263 defensive snaps this year.
"My time clearly was up," he said. "Coaches came to that conclusion and we had to do what we had to do. That's part of the business ... But for me, it was just an opportunity to get a fresh start, to go to a team and an organization that wanted me -- clearly by the move that they made -- and from talking to the coaches here, they want to use me playing [to] my strengths. They believe that I still have plenty of juice in the tank."
The Seahawks are hoping Dunlap can add some much-needed firepower to what's been one of the NFL's least effective pass rushes. They recorded only nine sacks over their first six games, then had to resort to one of their most blitz-heavy game plans in 11 seasons under Carroll to get three sacks in their win last week over the San Francisco 49ers.
It hasn't helped that they've taken several hits at defensive end, most notably Bruce Irvin's season-ending knee injury and the absence of second-round pick Darrell Taylor, who's yet to come off the non-football injury list. Seattle has also been without Rasheem Green since the opener and just lost Damontre Moore to a six-game suspension.
The Seahawks plan to play Dunlap at Leo, the end position in Carroll's 4-3 defense that usually plays on the weak side.
"I feel like it's a great fit," Dunlap said of Seattle's defense. "These guys fly around. I've been an edge defender my whole career. I've been left end, been right end, been in the 4-3 style and this is what we're doing here. I'm being asked to do what I've done my best football doing, so it's a win-win situation for me. I don't know how to explain it in any clearer terms, but this is definitely a win-win situation for me. I'm definitely excited and fired up to do what I do, and then be on the other side.
"Clearly with all the banners that they've got up in here, they're used to being in the big games and being on the better side of the big games, and I want to compete with those guys and help them win those big games. Whatever it takes."
After a scheme change under the Bengals' new coaching staff altered Dunlap's role in their defense, he was relieved when Carroll reassured him over the phone that the Seahawks were going to use him in more familiar ways.
"I've been a dominant, consistent edge guy my whole career," Dunlap said. "It speaks for itself. I don't have to talk about that. And if you look at the tape, there has not been any drop-off. So I just want to say that I'm revived, refreshed and I've got an opportunity to reset and write this chapter myself.
"So I have full confidence in grabbing the pen and writing it in the exact way that I want to, and I'm looking forward to this first start on Sunday of putting those first words, that first paragraph down. The Seahawks have given me a golden pen."