Why did Karlos Dansby choose to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals? There are probably multiple factors. For one, the potential to earn $2.25 million on a one year deal is pretty enticing for a 34-year-old player. But, the chance to win a Super Bowl is another factor that definitely helped to make his decision easy.
"We might be one of the more talented groups I've ever been around." Dansby told Dan Hoard in an interview on Bengals.com. And when asked what team he's been on that best compares to his current squad, his answer was, "that '08 Arizona team when we went to the Super Bowl."
At 34, Dansby might not have many more chances to be on a team that can finish what the 2008 Cardinals started. But, he's hoping this year proves to provide him with what he's looking for.
"It's pretty cool getting an opportunity to come in here and be a piece of the puzzle." Dansby said, "Ain't gotta do too much. Got a lot of talent around me. Got a lot of hungry guys who want to win."
Coming off nearly a decade without a winning season, no one expected the 2008 Arizona Cardinals to accomplish much. They started out pretty well, winning seven of their first 10 games. But, they lost four of their final six and looked like a team in disarray. They barely sneaked into the playoffs, largely due to a weak division allowing a 9-7 record to win the crown.
But, once they arrived in the postseason, things started going their way. Veteran quarterback Kurt Warner led the team to a Super Bowl appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game was very close, but in the end a defensive breakdown for the Cardinals led to a long offensive drive for the Steelers, capped off by a highlight reel Santonio Holmes touchdown catch. The Cardinals were defeated 27-23 and Dansby wondered if he would ever have his shot at a championship again.
"It was so surreal. I think about it every day. Being so close and losing it like we did, on defense, it sits with you if you're a defensive guy." Dansby told Hoard. "The only way you can right that is to get back there and make it happen and win it. So, that's what I'm focused on right now is just trying to get there."
As much as Dansby expects this Bengals squad to be similar to the Cardinals team that shocked the world and went to the Super Bowl in 2008, there's still aspects about this team that really get him excited. When asked about certain features of his current roster, he couldn't contain his excitement.
"We're talented man," Dansby said, laughing. "I haven't been around a group of guys like this in... never. In my 12 years of playing football on this level, I've never been around this much talent. Like I said, the competition is very high. We're all pushing and pressing each other to try to be better."
In the past, Dansby has had talks with the Bengals about joining the team. Following his final departure from the Cardinals after the 2013 season, there were rumors that the Bengals were interested in signing him. But, the Browns ended up convincing him with a $24 million contract with $14 million guaranteed. That's a pretty huge contract for a 32-year-old linebacker, but there was a lot of downside for Dansby when you look past the money.
"It was definitely tough going into that situation, knowing that week in and week out we might not have a good opportunity to make it to that next level, " Dansby said. "Last year's last year. I've got new goals now, set new ones, and I'm focused on trying to reach them. With all of this talent around me, they're going to push me to get there."
Despite the fact that he was on a bad team with little to no hope of going anywhere, Dansby still made out pretty well with the Browns. He was cut this offseason, halfway through his contract, but he still made $14 million out of the situation. Now, he's focused on finishing up his career with something to truly be proud of. At 34, he's not getting any younger and would naturally be winding down were it not for that one elusive goal that motivates him every day.
"It's a mindset. You've got to be focused, you've got to be disciplined," Dansby said. "There's a time and place for everything and when you've got to lock in, you've got to lock in. That's what I've been trying to do. I've been trying to lock in to that moment. I want that moment back, and I think the Bengals give me the best opportunity to get that moment back."
Hopefully, he gets his shot at that moment once again, very soon.