In spite of the fact that they may have one of the deepest rosters from top to bottom in the league, the Cincinnati Bengals were dealt a notable blow when the league elected to suspend starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season, a decision that has already been upheld under appeal.
Burfict’s suspension, of course, was ultimately tipped off after he unnecessarily struck Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the head while he was a defenseless receiver during an errant pass attempt late in the team’s Wildcard playoff game versus the Bengals back in January.
That high-profile incident was merely the last in a long string of incidents spanning virtually the entirety of his professional career. He was suspended for a low hit, as well as two other incidents, during the Steelers’ first meeting with the Bengals that season, during which he tore running back Le’Veon Bell’s MCL.
Even with a roster as deep as Cincinnati’s, however, the suspension was not one that they were quite prepared for from a personnel standpoint. That is why they acted quickly when the opportunity arose, signing 34-year-old veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby after he was released by the Browns earlier this offseason.
Dansby certainly is not quite the same player that he once was, particularly in his early years with the Cardinals, and later continuing to distinguish himself during his multi-year tenure with the Dolphins, but he has proven to still be a quality performer and veteran presence with the ability to make plays.
Last season with Cleveland, for example, he started all 16 games, accumulating over 100 tackles, to go along with two forced fumbles and three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. The year prior, in just 12 games, he recorded 93 tackles, three sacks, and an interception.
While Dansby may not be an ideal solution to serve as a 16-game starter, he should more than suffice for the predicament in which the Bengals find themselves, needing a temporary starter who can after his stint in the lineup slide into a key reserve role, much the way that DeAngelo Williams was signed to do for the Steelers last season.
From a Steelers perspective, however, you are certainly hoping that you get to see Dansby at least once in the starting lineup for the Bengals, which would likely require that at least one of their two matchups with the Bengals take place during the course of the first three weeks of the season.
During the 2015 season, however, both of Pittsburgh’s contests with their division foes took place as early as Week Eight, in a difficult late-game loss during which the offense struggled significantly.
For the Browns, it would certainly be fair to say that, while their timing was awfully poor, it may have been the right decision for them to move away from the aging Dansby and pay his high salary rather than rely on him to be a starter. But it merely created an opportunity for which their division, and state, rivals, the Bengals, could take advantage.