Karlos Dansby signed a four-year, $24 million contract with the Browns in the 2014 season at the age of 32, having earned a reputation over the previous decade as being one of the most consistent and no nonsense inside linebackers in the league, even if he rarely received the accolades that might be associated with that.
In his 12-year career, he has compiled 1210 tackles, 41 sacks, 18 forced fumbles, and 19 interceptions, six of which were returned for touchdowns, to go along with 73 passes defended. He was still a solid performer for the Browns through last season, registering 108 tackles, two forced fumbles, and three interceptions, but Cleveland had seen enough halfway through his deal.
Much to the profit of their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, according to Pro Football Focus, which regards the one-year $2 million deal that he signed with the defending AFC North champions as one of the best current contracts among inside linebackers in the league in terms of the return on investment.
While the article notes that his play dropped somewhat in 2015 in comparison to his best years from 2010 to 2014, due more to his run defense, “he remained one of the best linebackers in coverage”, with opposing quarterbacks earning a quarterback rating of just 65.3 throwing in his direction.
Along with the three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, he allowed no touchdowns of his own in coverage, and his 0.65 yards per snap in coverage allowed was the third-best among all players at his position. Certainly not bad numbers for a 34-year old man.
The signing comes at a good time, because the Bengals will begin the 2016 season saddled with a three-game suspension to Vontaze Burfict, their best linebacker. Dansby could start in his place for the first three games and then slide into a more mixed role, with PFF suggesting that he could be reserved for obvious passing situations to defend the area in which he has excelled the most over the course of his career.
Dansby will turn 35 this season, and is already the oldest inside linebacker currently under contract—though not the oldest, that distinction belonging to none other than the Steelers’ James Harrison—so it’s little surprise that he wasn’t able to land any sort of long-term deal, but he should present good short-term value for the Bengals in 2016 when they need it most.
It was a smart signing, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Browns were foolish to release him, considering that he was working under a contract that averaged $6 million per season, and he is being paid only a third of that, and likely for a reduced role.
Still, one AFC North team’s loss is another’s gain, and Dansby is already familiar with AFC North-style football, even if he spent most of his career out west, and in the NFC. The Last two seasons against the Steelers, he recorded 30 tackles, three passes defensed, a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble in four games.