The Cleveland Browns made a huge splash on the first day of the NFL free agency period by coming to terms with safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Karlos Dansby. Whitner and Dansby are widely seen as replacements for former Browns starters T.J. Ward and D’Qwell Jackson.
Whitner is a potential step up from Ward, but many are questioning the numbers behind Dansby’s signing and Jackson’s release. After failing to agree on a suitable restructuring of his contract, Jackson was released by the Browns before free agency began and quickly signed a four-year, $22 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts.
Not wanting to risk missing out on backfills for Jackson, the Browns ensured they wouldn’t be scrambling for a middle linebacker by signing Dansby to a four-year deal worth $24 million.
Dansby, who will turn 33 in November, was let go by the Arizona Cardinals after they did not want to give him the kind of money he will be seeing with the Browns. Although he is two years older than Jackson, Dansby is coming off an All-Pro season in which he totaled 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks and four interceptions.
Dansby’s 2013 season was stellar, but his age and contract length may pose questions as to why the Browns didn’t work harder to keep Jackson — the younger, unquestioned leader in Cleveland. It’s been thought that Jackson’s price to come back to the Browns was higher than the contract he accepted with Colts. So, when the Browns and Jackson’s representatives didn’t come to an agreement, it allowed Jackson to have reason to leave Cleveland and start a new chapter in Indy.
While Jackson will be missed in Cleveland, Dansby is said to be the more physical linebacker with a bigger presence in the middle. Though Dansby’s deal is initially set at four years, one possible scenario is that the Browns rely on Dansby and his services for the next two years, re-evaluate their situation, and either release or attempt to restructure his contract to better fit their salary cap situation.
Browns fans should not be discouraged by Dansby’s signing as it shows that the new regime is willing to spend money to turn the franchise around. Yes, the money involved in Dansby’s deal may seemingly be high for a player with his pedigree, but replacing Jackson was crucial to the Browns’ success.
On Tuesday, the Browns got their man. Dansby may be older, but they signed a player who should be able to raise his teammates’ play by bringing his aggressive style to Cleveland.