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Monday, March 8, 2010
Speed dial: Too many dollars for Dansby?

By Tim Graham

Time for another installment of "Speed Dial," where I call three people in my cell phone address book and get their insight on a particular subject.

Karlos Dansby
The Dolphins are betting that Karlos Dansby's signing won't be another high-profile mistake.
Today's question: Did the Miami Dolphins overspend when they gave Karlos Dansby, who never has been selected for a Pro Bowl, a five-year contract for $43 million, making him the NFL's highest-paid linebacker?

Marty Schottenheimer, 21-year NFL head coach:
"That sounds to me that it's expensive. It reminds me of when I was 6 years old and used to walk to the little grocery and candy store. When I say little, I mean you could barely fit five people in there. I used to go in there with my four, five, six, seven pennies. I could barely see above to counter. And I would say 'I want to take one of those, two of those, one of these ...' Mrs. Pascoe would have to stop me and say 'I'm sorry that's all the money you have.' That was my first exposure to what it was like to be a coach in the National Football League. My math has never been very good, but I understood what it meant.

"My theory has always been there's an amount of money you can spend, and you need to spread it out the right way to find the players that will help your football team. Some guys get paid more than they're worth, and some guys get paid less than they're worth. The market for Dansby was established somewhere by somebody.

"There are a number of people that would not be willing to make that kind of commitment, but the Dolphins know their situation better than anybody, and there might be other factors they desired other than play on the field -- leadership ability and the like. I've always thought that when it comes to free agents nobody knows what you're looking for like you do. The benefit you have in free agency is you have a pretty good idea how a guy is going to play at this level. Coming out of college, there are no assurances."

Kim Bokamper, Pro Bowl outside linebacker for the Dolphins and sports anchor of Miami's CBS affiliate:
"I've gotten to a point with free agency where I have to wait and see before I have an opinion because so many times they pick up guys you feel good about and they don't perform. That, to me, has always been the biggest question: Will he play as hard now that he's got the cash in his pocket compared to when he didn't -- relative to the amount of money these guys make. A perfect example is Ernest Wilford. He got some money in his pocket and put it in neutral.

"But with Dansby, you bring in a guy at middle linebacker who's a playmaker that they need. It kind of signals that the owner or the management feels that they're close and they're willing to go out and make a splash and spend a big chunk of change on someone who can put them there they need to be this year, and that's the playoffs.

"I have these visions in my head of running backs and tight ends running crossing routes or running down the middle of the field and watching our linebackers trailing them, two or three steps behind. If Dansby resolves that, then I'm all for it.

"Is there another guy out there considered better? If so, then I'd question the money. I don't think anybody can argue you'd pay more for anybody else out there than you would on this guy."

Keith Sims, three-time Pro Bowl guard for the Dolphins in the 1990s:
"I'm hoping we're not talking about another Dolphins free-agent bust like Eric Green, Ernest Wilford or Gibril Wilson. They haven't hit on their free agents. Otherwise, they'd have that cornerback, have that safety, have that receiver.

"Barring injury, [Dansby] will be a solid player for years. My question is whether he's going to be worth the dollars. I think it was a glaring need for the Dolphins, and he's a guy that's been productive. I think he brings a lot to table, and the one thing the Dolphins did not want to do was allow him to go to another team for a visit. He was able to force their hand and force them to pay top dollars to stop him from getting on that plane.

"Maybe they overpaid a little bit, but he solves a huge hole in the middle of the defense. The Dolphins identified what they wanted, saw he was the best player on the market and did what it took to go out and sign him. They went with the -- quote, unquote -- safest guy as they possibly could find and gave him the money.

"It's perfect timing for the player. He had all the leverage in the world. The team was desperate to fill the position, and they could've drafted [Rolando] McClain out of Alabama, but I always feel more comfortable paying top dollar to a veteran who has produced rather than a guy who's unproven, coming out of college."