The NFL draft is a month away, but that's not keeping the Bengals from being active in free agency.
To this point, you've probably noticed mock drafts frequently having wide receiver be the first pick, but a few have had Cincy going with a linebacker in Round 1. Ohio State's Darron Lee, Alabama's Reggie Ragland and Georgia's Leonard Floyd have been mentioned as possible targets for a Bengals team with a sneaky need at linebacker.
That's because Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first three games of 2016, not to mention backup hybrid backer Taylor Mays, who was recently signed by the team, is out four games as well. Then there's age possibly having a big effect on A.J. Hawk (32), who wasn't great in 2015, while Emmanuel Lamur left in free agency. That could leave a serious downgrade on the outside, unless the Bengals signed or drafted a quality player who could make an impact there for at least the 2016 season.
That's where free agent linebacker Karlos Dansby comes into play. The Bengals made what looks like a quality acquisition in signing Dansby, who, as mentioned above, gives depth at a position that needed more depth.
And heck, it's not like Dansby isn't capable of being an impact starter in this defense. After all, Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 25th-best linebacker in 2015, putting him significantly higher than Vinny Rey, Hawk and Lamur.
Though age makes Dansby seem like a risky signing, it's highly unlikely the Bengals are committing much to him. That way, they can cut him during final cuts if father time has indeed caught up to him and he can't make an impact on this defense.
But his production for a horrendous Browns defense suggests he still has plenty to offer, not to mention he'll have a vastly superior supporting cast in Cincinnati. That will allow the Bengals to utilize his strengths while masking his weaknesses, much like they've done with Maualuga as he's become more of a positive impact player the past two seasons.
And again, with Tez out early this season, Dansby will be playing a lot of snaps and may be just enough to help offset the loss of Burfict for a few weeks. Then when Burfict comes back, Dansby can go into more of a reserve role and challenge Hawk and Vinny for snaps.
Low-risk, high-upside signings have been a staple for the Bengals' recent success. This has the potential to be the latest example. It also ensures the Bengals can pass on linebackers in the draft unless it's a major value pick.
My Grade: B