The Cincinnati Bengals announced the signing of linebacker Karlos Dansby on Wednesday.
Entering his 13th season in the NFL player in 2016, Dansby adds vast experience, leadership and depth to a Bengals defense looking to become a championship-caliber unit this year.
"Karlos’ numbers speak for themselves," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in a press release, "and he is also a great veteran leader. He has the flexibility to play in all situations defensively. Just a very productive, quality guy we are fortunate to add to our team."
Dansby will provide some depth and versatility at a position that will be very thin to open the 2016 season. Vontaze Burfict will serve a three-game suspension to open the season, while hybrid backer/safety Taylor Mays is also out the first four games with a suspension. Emmanuel Lamur left in free agency this offseason after getting a lot of the SAM backer snaps the past two seasons.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dansby was the 25th-best linebacker and sixth-best coverage backer in the NFL last season, a weakness for the Bengals when in nickel situations a year ago. Vincent Rey finished with the 83rd-ranked coverage grade out of 94 qualifying linebackers in 2015.
Dansby also has 19 career interceptions (with six returned for touchdowns) and 75 career passes defensed. PFF also notes that opposing quarterbacks have averaged a mere 65.3 passer rating on 47 throws at Dansby in 2015, the fourth-best mark at the position, while Dansby ranked sixth and has graded positively against the pass every season since PFF began grading games in 2007. Where Dansby excels is blocking tight ends, something the Bengals haven't been great at in recent years.
Originally a second-round pick out of Auburn by the Cardinals in 2004, Dansby spent seven seasons over two different stints with Arizona, including their Super Bowl season of 2008. He also played with the Dolphins from 2010-12 before returning to Arizona in 2013. He actually visited the Bengals that year before re-joining the Cardinals. Dansby actually commented on that today after his signing was announced.
Dansby also said Bengals had his attention when he was a free agent in 2013. Came on visit. Just didn't work out.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) March 30, 2016
His first stint in Arizona saw Dansby become one of the game's best linebackers and a star for a defense that helped the Cardinals rise from being a bottom-feeder to a playoff team, winning four playoff games from 2008-09 and making it to Super Bowl XLIII before losing to Pittsburgh. Arizona also lost to eventual champion New Orleans the following year.
Dansby then in 2010 left to sign a five-year, $43 million contract with $22 million guaranteed in Miami, which made it the richest contract for an inside linebacker in NFL history at the time. He was cut after three seasons as the Dolphins continued to flounder and rebuild. Dansby then bounced back with an amazing 2013 season in Arizona that showed he was still one of the game's best. He was selected alongside Vontaze Burfict as a second-team All Pro that season.
Since then, Dansby has spent the last two seasons in Cleveland as a middle and inside linebacker for the Browns as they've switched from 4-3 to 3-4 defenses. Dansby finished last year with 109 tackles and three interceptions, two of which he returned for scores. He did not have a sack but does have 41 in his career and can make an impact there if the Bengals need him to.
Dansby, who turns 35 years old in November, will be playing in his 13th season in 2016. He has yet to make a Pro Bowl during that time, despite his numbers indicating he's certainly deserved a trip to Hawaii. His six INT returns for touchdowns are tied for the most by a linebacker in NFL history. He also has 18 career forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and six seasons of 100 or more tackles.
Dansby has 180 NFL games played with 161 starts and has played and started six postseason games. Age hasn't deterred him yet as his career-high for pass defenses in a season came in 2013 when he knocked down 19, an unheard of number for any linebacker (Lavonte David led all LBs in 2015 with 13). And, Dansby doesn't plan to slow down in 2016 with the Bengals.
Dansby on his number of snaps: the young guys are going to push me. I'm going to get better because of competition— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) March 30, 2016
Depending on what kind of defense Dansby has played in and what was asked of him, he's shown he can make an impact as a pass-rusher (6.5 in '13 and 8 in '06), coverage backer (28 PDs & 8 INTs since '13) or just a hard-hitting thumper (averaging 114 stops since '12).
While age figures to take a bit off his game this season, he won't need to play nearly the amount of snaps he's played to this point in his career. Dansby has been playing the majority of defensive snaps for his entire career to this point, but it's safe to think he's ready to give up some snaps to play for a team ready to make a run for the Super Bowl.
It sounds like Dansby is thrilled to be in Cincinnati and we're happy to have him!
Karlos Dansby, on conf call w #Bengals media: "I can come in get us over that hump...Haven't been around this much talent in long time."— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) March 30, 2016
Dansby: when lost that Super Bowl in 08, it drove me and I know these guys will feel like that— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) March 30, 2016
Dansby: This is going to be awesome, this situation. Can't put it into words. Can't draw better situation up with talent level we have.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) March 30, 2016
Dansby on leadership: "Have to be that mentor. Can't run from it. Burfict great player. Hope my drive match his drive & make him better."— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) March 30, 2016