Releasing Karlos Dansby makes Browns younger, but not better

By exchanging Karlos Dansby for Demario Davis, the Cleveland Browns got younger.

But they sure didn't get better.

Davis has been a nice player for the Jets for four years. Solid, dependable, durable, trustworthy on and off the field. But he led the Jets in missed tackles last season (according to ProFootballFocus.com) and pass coverage is not his forte. He's a solid free-agent addition, but he hasn't been dominant by any means.

At age 34, Dansby didn't fit in the tear-down-and-rebuild path that the Browns are following, but he had two very productive seasons in Cleveland.

In last season's debacle, he led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, interceptions and defensive touchdowns.

It's rare for a linebacker to lead in those varied categories. Dansby was the first linebacker to lead the Browns in interceptions since Tom Cousineau in 1983. He also returned two picks for touchdowns, which tied for the NFL high and is tied for the most in a season in Browns history.

He even adjusted his game about one-third of the way into the season, as defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil asked him to cover tight ends on passing downs.

Since he joined the league in 2004, Dansby has more tackles than anyone other than London Fletcher. He is one interception from being the fifth linebacker in NFL history to have 40 sacks and 20 interceptions, and with one more interception return for a touchdown, he would become the all-time leader for linebackers.

When he says "one of the best ever to play the game is on the market," he points to those numbers.

Dansby admitted that the Browns told him they are in rebuild mode when they informed him of his release, and he was grateful they did it early enough that he could catch on with another team. But that doesn't mean the Browns aren't losing a productive player. Nor does it mean they added a better player in Davis, who joins Chris Kirksey on the inside.

What this means for other aging veterans remains to be seen. A team can't have a roster of 53 players with fewer than four years of experience. It needs some veterans to show the way.

But a player like Joe Thomas or Donte Whitner or Paul Kruger, who can't afford to wait through a rebuild, might prefer to go elsewhere to finish their careers.

This Browns regime is not retooling. It's digging down into the basement and replacing everything from underground up.

If the team drafts wisely the way Oakland has (Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper), the turnaround can take place in a couple years.

But these next two years sure could be long and painful.