When it comes to free agency, fans always seem to dream far bigger than they should. They fail to keep things realistic. I know I've fallen victim to that a lot and I'm sure all of you have, too.
With that said, I think the Miami Dolphins have a very real shot of signing the best free agent linebacker on the market this offseason - Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby. Dansby is everything I think the Dolphins really need at linebacker and would be an ideal fit in Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense.
So let's take this one step at a time. First off, why do I think the Dolphins will be heavily involved in the bidding for Dansby? Two reasons. One - Bill Parcells loves linebackers and the Dolphins need linebackers. And two - Dansby clearly sees the Dolphins as a realistic destination. He did list the Dolphins as one of four potential destinations last week on Sirius NFL Radio. Dansby was also on with WQAM's Orlando Alzugaray last Friday. He had a lot to say. I transcribed some of the highlights and they are below:
(On how much he'd like to rejoin college teammate Ronnie Brown and complete that vision they had in college)
"It would be huge, man, to get an opportunity to play with anybody I had an opportunity to play with in college. It would be huge."
"Like I said, to come down there to Miami to a program that’s building up and becoming a contender in the tough eastern conference in the AFC. It’s tough in the AFC, man. It’s very tough. And like I said, I like their attitude. I like how they approach the game. And they’re in every game. They’re fighting to win every game. And that shows a lot of promise and I’d love to be down there."
(On if Karlos thinks he's a 'Parcells guy')
"I really do, Big O. I really do, man. Parcells told me one time when we were playing Dallas in Dallas – and they beat us bad, beat us real bad – and leaving that field, Parcells told me, he was like, 'Dansby, you’re a hell of a player.' And that kind of stuck with me ever since that day. That was my second season in and for Parcells to tell a young player something like that – that’s going to stick.'
(On if he wants to give Parcells a shout-out)
"Oh definitely, man. Parcells, man, hit your boy Karlos Dansby up, man. I’m ready, man. I think I’m a proven player. I think I can bring a lot to the table. I’m definitely what you need."
(On how much he'd enjoy playing in Miami's 3-4 where a LB has a chance to make lots of plays)
"That’s definitely what I like to do. I like to make plays. And I like to be called upon to make the play. I like the guys to look up to me to make that play, expect me to make that play. If the guys around me expect me to make a play, I got to step up to the challenge. And I like challenges."
Of course, you have to keep in mind that Karlos is trying to drive up his price tag and make as much money as possible. So of course he's going to do the rounds and speak with radio stations for many cities whose teams may need a linebacker. It would be bad business if he didn't. With that said, though, I really believe him when he says that the compliment Bill Parcells gave him years ago has stuck with him. That shows how respected Bill is. That and his feelings towards the Dolphins and their "attitude" and "approach to the game" - as Dansby said - could easily lure him to Miami.
So why should the Dolphins want him? That's easy. We know the Dolphins desperately need upgrades at linebacker - both inside and out. Karlos is a really good fit. He's good against the run. He's a good pass rusher, when necessary. And most importantly, he's a great coverage linebacker - something the Dolphins desperately need. ProFootballFocus ranks Dansby as the 7th best coverage ILB in the league.
But let's hear it right from a good source - somebody who has probably seen every snap in Dansby's career. To do that, let's welcome in Andrew from Revenge of the Birds - SBN's Cardinals blog. Below is a nice scouting report he put together for us on Karlos:
Strengths - Dansby is a versatile linebacker that can line up in the middle or to the outside. He's fast and can cover just about any position on the offense. He's a playmaker, and he forces turnovers. Against the Packers in the playoffs, he tipped Rodgers first pass for an interception, he forced a fumble on their next drive, and scored the game-winning fumble recovery for a touchdown. Basically, he has a knack for making impact plays happen at key moments in games. He's never been a distraction on or off the field, and was an important leader to the young linebackers.
Weaknesses - He's not biggest linebacker, or at least built like one. He won't bring ideal run support that may be needed. Although he's not a distraction, he believes he should be paid higher then what he's worth. If you pulled Dansby for Patrick Willis, the Cardinals run defense would dramatically improve, and I believe the quality at linebacker around him would improve as well. That's the best way for me to describe his weakness, so take it for what it's worth.
Summary - Karlos Dansby has been one of the few consistent pieces to the Cardinals defense and was a valuable asset to the team during their last two successful seasons. He can line up and cover quick tight ends, or can rush the quarterback. For the last few seasons, Dansby has played middle linebacker and only middle. The Cardinals used him primarily in the middle for run support and to drop into coverage. He did began his career to the outside and was successful, so I'd imagine he could play multiple positions for the Dolphins. In my view, Dansby was always an emotional leader on the defense and never complained about his role with the team. He can make plays through the air and ground and still has a lot to give at 28-years old. However, he has reached his peak so what you see is what you get.
Sound good to you?
The final question becomes, of course, what he'll cost as an unrestricted free agent. I'd imagine it'll be around what Bart Scott got from the Jets last offseason - probably a little more because Dansby is better than Scott. But to me, that's not too steep of a price. He'd fill a need for at least a solid four seasons. And he'd free up draft picks to use elsewhere. Suddenly, even if McClain was available at #12, the Dolphins could go elsewhere in round one. A play-maker on offense? A pass-rushing linebacker? A safety? A nose tackle? The possibilities are endless.
So what about all of you? Would you be willing to give Karlos a deal similar to Bart Scott's 6 year, $48 million with $22 million in guarantees?