just made Cleveland's defense a bit faster ... and a bit better. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
In 2013, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby had his best overall season, amassing 112 solo tackles and four interceptions (both career-highs, and with two of those picks for touchdowns) for the NFL's second-best defense. Dansby was a team leader, and he combined with Daryl Washington to form perhaps the NFL's most agile duo of inside linebackers. He was a huge part of Arizona's defensive reclamation, so it was a bit surprising when the Cardinals offered the impending free agent just $10-12 million over two years to re-up.
Safe to say, Dansby wasn't impressed, and according to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com, he's moved on. Somers reported that Dansby has accepted a four-year, $24 million deal with the Cleveland Browns that includes $14 million guaranteed and will pay him $10 million in the first year of the contract.
It's a bit of a risk only because of Dansby's age -- he'll be 33 in November -- but there's no question that Dansby will improve Cleveland's interior defense, especially with D'Qwell Jackson moving along to the Indianapolis Colts. It's a good fit for player and team because new Browns head coach Mike Pettine runs a set of hybrid defenses in which his linebackers are expected to cover a lot of ground -- and Dansby can unquestionably do that.
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Whatever the disconnect was with the Cardinals, their offer certainly didn't seem to reflect head coach Bruce Arians' positive thoughts about the veteran.
"Oh there's no doubt," Arians said late last month. "We offered Karlos a contract the day after the season. We're still in the negotiation process. But yeah, he's a major priority because of what he brought to the table for us as a leader. We definitely would love to have him back."
Dansby, for his part, was more than amenable to a return.
"I definitely want to dominate in a winning program, definitely want to be in a winning situation at this point in my career," he said in early February. "I'm having fun, man, I'm just getting started. I've got some things up my sleeve I'm going to be doing this offseason to really solidify myself as the best linebacker in the league, period. I let it slip through my fingers last season, I won't let it happen again."
The Browns are hardly a winning program -- they've had just two non-losing seasons since their return to the NFL in 1999 -- but they had the appreciation and the cap space for Dansby, while the Cardinals decided that, for whatever reason, they did not.
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, Dansby's now former teammate in Arizona, was not at all impressed.
This is a great deal for the Browns, especially when you consider that Jackson got a roughly equivalent deal in Indy (four years, $22 million with $11 million guaranteed) and Dansby is the superior player. The Browns have made a lot of interesting mistakes over the past few seasons, but this signing is a slam-dunk if Dansby can maintain his recent level of production. Add in his six sacks, and Pettine must be ecstatic to have such a versatile player as a key cog.