NFL Nation: Karlos Dansby

Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cleveland Browns' 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers:
  • Dansby
    Taking lumps: Karlos Dansby was asked after the game if the change in quarterbacks to Johnny Manziel had any kind of negative effect on the team. His response: "It’s what the coach decided to do, the organization decided to do. Once they made that move, we have to ride with it. Got to take our lumps in the process."
  • Speechless: Five weeks into a serious rut for the offense, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins still can’t quite figure out what’s changed with the offense (11.7 points per game during this four-game losing streak). The quarterback switch isn’t an excuse, Hawkins said, because the offense has to produce regardless. “Honestly, I can’t [explain it],” Hawkins said. “It’s a combination of things.”
  • Still optimism: Brian Hoyer points out the Browns still have a chance to finish 8-8. The franchise hasn't avoided a sub-.500 season since 2007. “The guys in that locker room, we’ve worked so hard and have to go out and finish this strong," Hoyer said.
  • Youth emerging: How about a shout-out for rookie Pierre Desir, who two weeks ago hadn’t logged one defensive snap. Against Carolina, because of injuries in the Browns' backfield, he played the entire game and acquitted himself well against Kelvin Benjamin, who finished with five catches for 47 yards. “It was a good matchup and I had fun out there,” Desir said.
  • Quote of note: “I’m laying on the ground just wondering if he’s gonna make it in.” –Hoyer, who got knocked to the ground on his 81-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jordan Cameron.
  • Handoff that didn’t count: Defensive tackle Billy Winn said he protected the ball, rolled over and was “looking for a guy to give [the ball] to” on his interception that safety Jordan Poyer scooped up and ran back. A touchdown was overturned because Winn was declared down. “Obviously I’m not going to get up and run it in, so I was looking for a fast guy to give it to,” Winn said.

One has been a league power broker, one wants to be.

And when the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals get together Sunday afternoon in Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Broncos (2-1) will try to knock some of the rough edges off while the Cardinals (3-0), one of just two teams to arrive to Week 5 undefeated, will try to show they are ready to be at the front of the line.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold take a look at the game.

Legwold: At 3-0, how do the Cardinals see themselves? Upstart in NFC? Or team that believes it should have made the playoffs last year and is ready to take the next step to be in this postseason mix this time around?

Weinfuss: If there's one thing the Cardinals don't see themselves as, it's an upstart team. That much was instilled in them by Bruce Arians last season. Especially after upsetting Seattle at home last December, this team believed it should've been in the playoffs. And with how they played in the second half of the season, it's hard to argue with them. But the Cardinals who returned this year learned a lot from last season's first half, most notably how important it is to win those early games. What they're doing now isn't a surprise to those who pay attention to this team, and a lot of it is a direct result of Arians' demeanor. His straight-shooting personality -- curse 'em out on the field but hug 'em off of it -- has rubbed off on everyone in the locker room. It has led to this team to believe it could win for the first time since Kurt Warner was here.

Speaking of learning from last year, what was the main thing the Broncos took away from last season's loss in the Super Bowl, and how have they used it in 2014?

Legwold: The main thing GM John Elway took away was he wanted far better personnel on defense and some more receivers who could battle their way through physical play from defensive backs. The result was an offseason spending spree that reeled in DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward on defense to go with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos also used a first-round pick in the draft on cornerback Bradley Roby and a second-rounder on wide receiver Cody Latimer. So, the 35-point loss certainly forced a roster makeover and for the holdovers it did provide plenty of incentive as they went through the offseason workouts. There is a feeling, after the overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the 2012 playoffs followed by the Super Bowl blowout, of trying to finally close the deal this time around.

In terms of roster makeover, with all that has happened to the Cardinals' defense with the injuries, etc., how have they pushed themselves into the league's top five?

Weinfuss: Nobody expected Arizona to be among the league's top five defenses this year after losing the likes of Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington before the season and then Darnell Dockett during training camp and John Abraham in the first few weeks of the year. But credit must be given to the Cardinals' front office. The brain trust has done a good job of finding veterans who still have gas in the tank, such as linebacker Larry Foote and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. But the biggest reason for the defense's success is defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. His single-gap scheme revitalized this defense last year and all he has been doing is adding wrinkles here and there to adjust to his personnel. For example, Arizona is running a lot of nickel and dime packages because it gets rookie safety Deone Bucannon on the field. For as good of an offensive mind as Arians is, Bowles is his equal on the defensive side.

Have the additions to the Broncos' defense been paying off? Or is it too early to see a difference? Do you think they'll be the difference between another ring and a consolation prize?

Legwold: The new arrivals have all had impact in the season's early going. Ware leads the team in sacks (2.5), Talib has been every bit the No. 1 corner they hoped he would be and Ward is one of two players on defense who have played every snap in the first three games, having been used in a variety of roles. The Broncos have seen enough from Roby. They've tossed him into the deep end of the pool as the rookie and he has matched up with some of the league's front-line receivers. All of that said, however, the Broncos still haven't consistently shown the kind of play they'll need to hoist a trophy, particularly on third down. As linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who both had ACL injuries last season, continue to work back to full speed, the Broncos should continue to improve. Also, linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was the team's leading tackler last season and who suffered a fracture on the top of his tibia in training camp, will play in his first game of the season Sunday. It will mean the Cardinals will be the first team to face the revamped defense with all of the starters in place.

Sticking to defense, Manning heads into this game with 499 career touchdown passes. Between the two of them, Cardinals' assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore and head coach Bruce Arians have seen many of those up close as former Colts assistants. To that end, with that kind of up-close-and-personal knowledge, how do you think the Cardinals will defend Manning and the Broncos' offense?

Weinfuss: One thing the defense has stayed consistent on this week is that they don't want to tip their hand to Manning before the snap. With that being said, I think they'll blitz him constantly -- all three of his sacks this season have come off the blitz, which, I can imagine, was good news to Bowles. But they won't blitz Manning like they'll blitz other quarterbacks because he's so good at adapting so quickly. Arizona plans on giving Manning the same look every snap. But guys who have played Manning know he'll wait until the very last second to make a decision because the defense will have to show their blitz by then, but the Cardinals will try to hold their disguise as long as possible.

With Manning coming up on such a historic mark, has it been a distraction for this team in the sense of more non-football attention has descended upon them? Are they ready for Manning to pass Brett Favre so they can just get back to focusing on football?

Legwold: One thing about this team is the swirl around them doesn't get to them very often. Last season they had Miller's suspension in training camp, John Fox's open-heart surgery during the bye week and five defensive starters on injured reserve by the time they were preparing to play in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl loss may have been the first, and worst, time for the Broncos not to play to the level of a game's standing last season. Before the title-game blowout, they had handled everything that had come their way without losing their edge. This time around players here simply assume Manning will hit 500 and then go on and break the record through the natural course of things. The record is nice, but they want another shot at the title and, for the most part, they see whatever happens along the way as issues that must be dealt with to get that chance.

Dansby's preparation leads to success

September, 17, 2014
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BEREA, Ohio -- Small actions matter in games, and can sometimes make the difference between winning and losing.

Karlos Dansby said after the win over the Saints that he was able to come up with a key sack late in the game because he recognized Drew Brees' protection call and he knew he'd have an open lane to Brees.

"That's just from watching film," Dansby said Wednesday as the Browns prepared for their next game against the Baltimore Ravens.

[+] EnlargeCleveland's Karlos Dansby
AP Photo/David RichardKarlos Dansby said he was able to get a late sack on Drew Brees because he recognized Brees' protection call from watching film.
He then went through the play, against Brees, explaining that once he knew he'd get the sack his next focus was to make sure Brees did not throw the ball before he was tackled.

"Make sure he don't throw the ball in the dirt," Dansby said. "Because he threw the ball in the dirt when a couple other guys had him wrapped up. He just got rid of it at the last second."

He didn't against Dansby, because Dansby didn't let him.

"Grab his arm," Dansby said. "That's what I tried to do. I tried to get the ball out period, but he tucked it at the last second where I couldn't get it. I just got him down. I was kind of mad about that situation. I wanted the ball.

"The whole mindset was getting the ball. I knew he wasn't going to get away from me."

Getting the ball out would have given the Browns the ball with excellent field position. Making the sack forced a punt. Knowing Brees wouldn't get away from him was the result of film study that showed Dansby in that particular formation when Brees slid the protection to the offense's right, there would be nobody in the backfield helping with protection.

"Once he slid the front, it was just me and him," Dansby said.

What would Dansby do if he faced a more mobile quarterback?

"Watch the film," he said. "You'll see when guys come free on (a quarterback) what he likes to do."

That knowledge might be the difference between winning a play and losing it, and sometimes one play can have a huge effect on winning a game or losing it -- like Dansby's sack.

"Like Ben (Roethlisberger)," Dansby said. "Ben would have tried to spin out and I would have been right there waiting on him. He'd have taken one step to the right and he'd have tried to spin out. That's his thing. That's what he likes to do."

He pointed out in the opener that rookie Chris Kirksey almost had Roethlisberger for a sack, but he stepped right and spun away from Kirksey for a completion.

His words were reminiscent of a couple years ago, when Joe Thomas said he always tries before a game to find a pass-rusher's signature move because in a key situation the player will depend on that move. His approach and Dansby's is the kind that separates the better players from the ordinary ones.

"I watch film, man," Dansby said. "I'm not just physical and playing a game. I have to watch these things because these situations are going to come about and you have to envision yourself in these situations and know how you're going to attack them."

Jimmy Graham shows his worth

September, 14, 2014
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CLEVELAND -- Maybe Jimmy Graham has had more impressive days. But the New Orleans Saints tight end was never more important than Sunday.

It may seem like a moot point, since the Saints ultimately lost 26-24 to the Cleveland Browns in the final seconds. But Graham was the single biggest reason why the Saints were in a position to win after starting in a 16-3 hole.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
AP Photo/Tony DejakJimmy Graham tied a career high with 10 receptions against the Browns.
Graham didn’t have a catch at that point in the game, with less than four minutes remaining in the first half. But he finished with 10 catches (matching a career high) for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

“That’s why they’re paying him so much money. That’s why he’s asking for that much, he’s that kind of impact player,” Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby said, referencing the four-year, $40 million deal Graham signed this offseason. “We held him in check for a little, then he got loose and made his plays.”

On a day when nothing else seemed to be working for the Saints’ passing offense, Graham delivered time and again. No matter who was covering him -- including Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, whom Graham beat twice for big plays in tight man coverage.

“When you’re 6-7, 260 and you can run like a deer and jump out of the gym, you’re hard to cover,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “So obviously you saw him make some plays today. I thought he played exceptionally well.”

When asked if he ever gets in one of those zones where he feels like no one can stop him, Graham said, “You know, I’m not that cocky. But I’m confident that if Drew throws it up, I’m gonna try to get it for him.”

Graham certainly helped to dispel the myth that he can be taken out of games by a top cornerback.

Two of his biggest plays came when he was being blanketed by Haden – a 9-yard TD pass with three seconds left in the first half and a 20-yard pass to the 3-yard line that set up another TD in the fourth quarter.

The notion that Graham doesn’t have the same impact when covered by cornerbacks became popular when the New England Patriots’ Aqib Talib had success against him last year. And it was oft-mentioned when Graham was trying to be declared a receiver for franchise-tag purposes this summer.

But Graham proved that his size advantage can still prove too much for even top cornerbacks.

When asked if he invites teams trying to cover him that way, Graham said, “Yeah, I guess. If they’re gonna cover me with a cornerback, I’ve gotta find a way to get open.”

Graham also added high praise for Haden, who certainly had a successful day aside from those two plays.

The Browns’ passing defense did an outstanding job of frustrating Brees and his receivers throughout the day. At times, they had seven defensive backs on the field, leaving no one open -- and sometimes leading to costly results.

That pass coverage led to Brees being sacked against the goal line in the first quarter when he held the ball too long. It led to an interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter when Brees heaved one over Graham’s head under pressure. And it kept receiver Marques Colston without a catch (or even a single target) for the first time in 87 games.

But the Browns couldn’t find an answer for Graham.

“Jimmy Graham is a special player that has a special talent,” Haden said. “I ran up to him after the game, and we just both paid homage. He was telling me how good I was at corner, but he is just a really big target. Sometimes it is really hard to make plays on the ball; you have to try and get under him. Once he gets that big frame in front of you, it’s kind of hard to hit that ball.”
Observed and heard in the locker room after the New Orleans Saints26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns:

Brees
Unfinished product: The word “finish” was uttered by just about every player in the Saints’ locker room after they let another lead slip away in the final seconds. Yes, they had a lot of problems throughout Sunday’s loss. But as quarterback Drew Brees pointed out, they are “literally” one play away in each game from being 2-0. And last season, they started 2-0 in the exact opposite fashion with last-minute wins. … That didn’t help erase anybody’s frustration, but it hasn’t sapped this team’s confidence yet. Offensive tackle Zach Strief insisted any "crisis" will only come from the outside.

Payton-Ryan exchange: The TV cameras caught Saints coach Sean Payton shouting and pointing at defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on the sideline early in the Browns’ game-winning field goal drive. When asked afterward if that was normal, Payton responded, “Every game. Yeah, every game.” … Obviously we don’t see (or notice) that exact type of exchange on a weekly basis. But it certainly matches with Payton’s animated, emotional persona on game days -- especially considering the circumstances of the game.

Dansby’s secret info: According to ESPN.com Browns reporter Pat McManamon, Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby said he heard the Saints’ line call on a crucial third-and-5 play at Cleveland’s 31-yard line late in the fourth quarter (that they were going to protect outside right). So Dansby said he knew he could get a free lane up the middle for a sack against Brees. Indeed, Dansby flew in untouched and knocked the Saints out of field goal range.

#NFLRank 2014: Takeaways from 71-80

August, 20, 2014
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Three takeaways from ESPN's #NFLRank reveal of the top 100 offensive and top 100 defensive players in the league. Today: 71-80.

1. Money for nothing? The Baltimore Ravens got a Super Bowl victory out of quarterback Joe Flacco in 2012, and Flacco got an impenetrable contract that will pay him well beyond his current performance level. He'll take in $21 million this season, a year after the Ravens paid him $30 million, and almost certainly will be around for an $11 million payday in 2015. That'll take his three-year grab to $62 million, and because of the deal's cap structure, it's quite likely he'll get some kind of extension after that. (Releasing him after 2015 would trigger a $26 million cap charge.) And for what? #NFLRank tabbed him the No. 80 offensive player in the league, behind 14 quarterbacks, and that seems about right. Last season, Flacco's Total Quarterback Rating ranked No. 25 in the NFL. Don't blame Flacco. His team won the Super Bowl at exactly the right time -- for him.

2. A pair of veteran defenders: Did the Cleveland Browns plan it this way? Who knows? In the end, however, they signed two free agents this spring who were destined to be stacked on top of each other in #NFLRank. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is No. 72 among all defensive players, and safety Donte Whitner is No. 73. Dansby is 32 and Whitner is 29, and nothing about their #NFLRank seems out of place. As much as anything, the Browns are hoping Dansby and Whitner can add edge and aggressiveness to an otherwise faceless defense. Their best playing days are probably behind them, but the Browns will be happy with the attitude adjustment they're likely to bring.

3. Growing into a role: Nate Solder began his college career as a tight end and hadn't finished growing into a left tackle's body by the time he entered the NFL in 2011. But Solder, positioned at No. 72 in #NFLRank, has developed into a more-than-adequate left tackle for the New England Patriots. Soon it will be time for the Patriots to decide whether to commit long term, as the Dallas Cowboys recently did with left tackle Tyron Smith, or move on. Solder is a bargain in 2014 with a $1.7 million salary, but he will have a chance to dramatically increase his compensation in 2015 with a strong season. Left tackle is one of the more difficult spots to fill in the NFL, and the Patriots would be wise to let Solder continue to grow with them.

On Jon Beason's contract numbers

March, 13, 2014
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Linebacker Jon Beason's deal with the New York Giants is for three years and up to $19 million, with $7 million guaranteed. If he hits all of his incentives and doesn't get cut, he'll earn $12 million in the first two years.

Beason
That $6 million-plus-per-year is a good bit more than what I thought Beason would end up getting from the Giants. I thought they had him slotted for something like $4 million per year, and to see them exceed that by so much was a bit startling. Karlos Dansby, who just had a monster year as an inside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, got $6 million per year from the Cleveland Browns. First glance, it appears Beason took the Giants to the cleaners.

So why spend so much on a position they've effectively ignored since Antonio Pierce retired? Well, there are a couple of reasons the Giants may have stretched for Beason:
  1. They know they like him. Beason fit perfectly into the Giants' defense last year as a guy who could make the calls and get everybody lined up where they needed to be. He got the system and the terminology immediately, and the players responded to the way he delivered it. Bringing in someone else from the outside, the Giants couldn't have been sure that person would slide in as neatly.
  2. They need leadership. Cornerback Terrell Thomas is not in their plans. Defensive end Justin Tuck could be back, but they're not exactly going out of their way to convince him to stay. Safety Antrel Rolle has only one year left on his deal. Along with Beason, these were the strong leaders on the Giants' defense in 2013. Two could be gone this year and three next year. The Giants value locker-room leadership and on-field leadership, and as a result Beason likely had more value to them than an outsider (and better player) like Dansby may have had.
  3. He's only 29, and while he's had injuries in the past, he did stay healthy in 2013. They have reason to believe his best days are not yet behind him.
  4. The guarantee is low. This is the big difference. Dansby got more years (four) and more guaranteed money ($12 million) from Cleveland. The Giants aren't as heavily committed to Beason. So if he disappoints or gets hurt, they're not saddled with some huge contract they can't escape. If he stays healthy and plays out the whole deal, they'd probably argue that it was money well spent.

The Giants made Beason a priority and once other teams expressed interest, I'm sure they ended up offering more than they initially offered. Good for Beason, who acted as his own agent, for getting what looks to be a very nice deal from the Giants, who decided they couldn't live without him.
There was no shortage of bravado as the Cleveland Browns introduced the three new members of their defense on Wednesday.

Dansby
Whitner
Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby and Isaiah Trufant were sincere and upbeat about joining the Browns, which is a positive. But there’s nothing that stirs the souls of Browns fans more than free-agent signings and draft picks. At least there won’t be until the Browns win. And Whitner, Dansby and Trufant all believe they can be the guys to change the vibe.

“You really have to change the culture,” Whitner said. “You have to change the mindset and you have to change the feel within the locker room.”

Dansby, an inside linebacker, said his forte is “raising the play of the guys around me.”

“That’s what I’ve been able to do everywhere I’ve been over my career,” he added. “That’s what I am known for. ... If I’m able to do that, then I have a lot of success as well.”

Dansby said he’s on a mission to be the best player in the league, and he came close last season. He added all he knows “how to do is win” and he believes he can double his numbers from 2013, which he called the best season of his career.

“Playing at the toughest position in the NFL, and you get a chance to dominate at that position, it says a lot about you as a person, as character, and as a player,” Dansby said.

Whitner talked about coming home; he played at Glenville High School in inner city Cleveland, and has family and two children in town. He also talked about his high hopes for the 2014 Browns, saying he and Dansby believe they can contribute to a dominant defense.

“That’s what we believe,” Whitner said. “That’s why we teamed up together.”

He said the key to defense is understanding the scheme, then playing physical. As he said, “Somebody is going to get hit.”

“Are you a defense that is feared by offenses around the National Football League?” he asked.
Upgrades, replacement parts or both?

Did the Cleveland Browns take a step forward on the first day of free agency with their three signings, or did they merely bring in replacements for guys who left?

Maybe it depends on point of view.

The Browns lost an inside linebacker and receiver this offseason when they released D'Qwell Jackson and Davone Bess. They lost a safety when T.J. Ward signed with Denver as a free agent.

In free agency, they agreed with an inside linebacker in Karlos Dansby, agreed to an offer sheet with receiver Andrew Hawkins and agreed with safety Donte Whitner.

Out goes one, in comes another.

All the new guys are good players. Whitner and Dansby are aggressive guys who are not afraid to lead. Both are older than the guys they replaced, but both can play. Hawkins is younger than Bess, and (assuming the Bengals do not match the offer) is faster, more explosive and more dependable than Bess, who developed a good case of the dropsies in Cleveland.

Are the Browns better than they were on Tuesday? The team would say yes, that they have added explosive, aggressive players who can make impact plays on defense, in the passing game and on special teams. Too, the players signed -- while not "big-ticket" guys -- are good, dependable players. They are far better than just "guys" who fill the roster. They can play, and that's good.

But the argument can be made that because the Browns lost players at each of the positions, the team merely has filled holes. The players may be better, but it's not like upgrading from a college backup to Tom Brady. The two defensive guys lost contributed to the Browns the past few years. The new guys may be better, but they are better by degrees, not leaps and bounds. Still, by that measurement, the Browns improved. But they won't make significant steps forward until they add players to the mix, not remake the mix.

If the Browns take what they've done and add another good player or two, they will have taken a step forward. The draft awaits, and the Browns have more picks than some teams do in two years.

The first day of free agency was a start. It wasn't merely treading water. But it also wasn't a huge splash. It was a start.

But for a team that has a bunch of false starts the past few years, a start is something.
The Cleveland Browns cut an inside linebacker prior to free agency.

Within minutes of free agency’s start, they reached agreement with an inside linebacker.

And he’s older than the one they cut.

Dansby
The new regime must like Karlos Dansby, though, because they made him one of their first additions in free agency. The former Cardinals linebacker agreed to a four-year deal worth $24 million, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The deal is worth $2 million more than the one D'Qwell Jackson signed to join the Colts. Dansby will get $14 million guaranteed, according to sources.

Dansby is considered a more physical version of Jackson. He broke up 19 passes in 2013, had four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns to go with 6.5 sacks. But he is two years older than Jackson, and ESPN’s Bill Polian had Dansby rated lower in his free-agency tracker. Polian says Dansby still can play, but his age is a factor. Polian calls him a “big, tough, instinctive” linebacker.

The Cardinals let him go because of money. They like him as a player but don’t know how much longer he’ll be able to play at the level he’s at. They judged him not worth what he was demanding and eventually getting, much like the Browns judged Jackson not worth the money.

Dansby joins his third team. He spent time with the Cardinals and Dolphins before rejoining the Cardinals last season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he has had more than 100 tackles four of the past five seasons, with 95 in the one season he didn’t get 100. His 6.5 sacks were his highest single-season total since 2006, and his four interceptions were a career high.

He signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with Arizona last season after leaving Miami, so he made the most of his contract year.

The Browns had to add an inside linebacker because of the decision with Jackson. They did, and the guy they got is a solid, aggressive player, even if he is a little older.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Soon we'll come to have a better sense of just whom the Tennessee Titans are interested in as free agents, and the degree of that interest.

But of the four guys they've reportedly expressed interest in during the open, pre-free-agency period, I am struck by something about two of them.

Houston defensive lineman Antonio Smith and Denver end/outside linebacker Shaun Phillips are each 32.

D'Qwell Jackson, an free agent the Titans had in early for a visit, is 30. (He signed with Indianapolis.)

Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby, who has a history with Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, is also 32.

Free agency is a young man's game, and generally you want the targets you spend money on to be coming off their initial contract and heading into their prime.

But there is a place for the right 32-year-old on a team changing schemes and needing leadership.

The Titans aren't going to sign Smith, Phillips or Dansby. But one of them would be very good for a defense that needs an infusion of added leadership, experience and production for a front being revamped.

Free-agency primer: Cardinals

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, RT Eric Winston, S Yeremiah Bell, K Jay Feely, LB Matt Shaughnessy

Where they stand: Arizona has talked to all of them, but it's unlikely the Cardinals re-sign any of the team's key free agents until after March 11. Dansby could be the trigger, however. If he re-signs for an affordable price or doesn't re-sign, Arizona may be able to re-sign some of their veteran free agents instead of opting for cheaper options. According to reports, Arizona has been negotiating with linebacker Shaughnessy. Bell has expressed his desire to return to Arizona mainly because of what the Cardinals' defense started last year. Winston may be the Cardinals' best option at right tackle for another season and his camp has begun talks with the Cardinals. Feely has said he talked to the Cardinals this week.

What to expect: Don't expect Dansby to re-sign before free agency begins. If it hasn't happened yet, it probably won't until he tests the market to see what his worth is. Then the Cardinals could come into play again. Winston could be whom Arizona needs to anchor the line for another year. He, along with the rest of the offensive line, matured together and were protecting quarterback Carson Palmer better in the second half of the season than the first, momentum that can only continue to grow. Bell isn't likely to return because his size and speed make him a liability against bigger, faster receivers and tight ends. Even though he was in Bruce Arians' dog house at the end of the season, Feely can return because of the limited number of good kickers available. Shaughnessy is also likely to re-sign because of his value at a low cost.
The March 11 start of NFL free agency is almost upon us.

This week we’re looking at free agents I think should get a look from the Titans.

Previously, we considered Pittsburgh outside linebacker Jason Worilds and Brian Orakpo, and both of them got tagged and won't likely get offer sheets from the Titans.

We've also looked at Oakland end Lamarr Houston and Jets offensive tackle Austin Howard.

Karlos Dansby, ILB, Arizona

Age: 32

Drafted: Second-round pick by Arizona out of Auburn in 2004.

Career: Ten seasons with Cardinals, Dolphins.

2013: Second Team All-Pro. Sixteen starts, 6.5 sacks, four interceptions, two touchdowns, 19 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

From ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss: "Dansby turned a lot of heads in 2013 and impressed in the process because he trimmed down and played like a man five years younger than his 32 years. Dansby wasn't limited to just the second layer on defense. He helped the Cardinals' top-ranked defense stuff the run and dropped back in coverage, intercepting four passes while returning two of them for touchdowns.

"While his anticipation, pass coverage and quickness improved last year, his speed was still a question mark. Dansby was exposed throughout the season when he was paired up with a faster tight end or receiver. But improving his speed has been Dansby's top focus this offseason.

"His biggest asset to a team may be in the locker room. Coming up on his 11th season, Dansby re-established himself as a leader in the Cards' locker room in 2013 despite being gone for a while and only having a handful of the same teammates.

"Because of his big season in 2013, Dansby believes he's worth more than the $2.25 million the Cardinals paid him in 2013. But what Dansby believes his worth may be may not be what other teams perceive it as. If Dansby gets the type of offer he wants, which is nearing $10 million, he'll take it. Otherwise, he may just take a lesser deal to stay in Arizona."

From ESPN.com’s resident scout Matt Williamson: "Dansby is an every-down veteran linebacker that has experience in a 4-3 and a 3-4. He is up in age, but is coming off an outstanding season in Arizona."

PFF says: No. 1 LB.

My rationale: Played for Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona and can be a major flag-bearer for the new coaching regime on defense. The Titans need a better inside linebacking presence and a guy rooted in 3-4 concepts.
A week from now, the NFL universe will be in an (un)organized chaos when free agency begins at 2 p.m. MT. The Cardinals have their sights set on a few needs, namely offensive tackle, tight end and safety.

ESPN Stats & Info put together a list of the best available free agents. Three Cardinals made the list -- linebacker Karlos Dansby, right tackle Eric Winston and safety Yeremiah Bell.

Here they are for the positions Arizona is targeting in free agency:

Defensive tackle

Hatcher
Hatcher
Jason Hatcher

B.J. Raji

Randy Starks

Kevin Williams

Paul Soliai

Henry Melton

Defensive end

Jared Allen

Lamarr Houston

Michael Johnson

Justin Tuck

Michael Bennett

Cornerback

Verner
Alterraun Verner

Aqib Talib

Charles Tillman

Captain Munnerlyn

Vontae Davis

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Linebacker

Shaun Phillips

Jon Beason

Daryl Smith

Brandon Spikes

Karlos Dansby

Bell
Safety

Jairus Byrd

T.J. Ward

James Ihedigbo

Yeremiah Bell

Ryan Clark

Donte Whitner

Tight end

Scott Chandler

Brandon Pettigrew

Brandon Myers

Garrett Graham

Jermichael Finley

Winston
Offensive line

T – Branden Albert

T – Eric Winston

T – Eugene Monroe

T – Michael Oher

C – Ryan Wendell

C – Jonathan Goodwin

G – Zane Beadles

G – Richie Incognito

G – Charlie Johnson

Contemplating D'Qwell Jackson's visit

February, 28, 2014
2/28/14
2:42
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With D'Qwell Jackson's visit to the Tennessee Titans on Friday will come all sort of speculation.

So I take the occasion to urge us all to emphasize the word at the heart of what’s going on: visiting.

Jackson
Jackson is presumably chatting with coach Ken Whisenhunt, with defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and with linebacker coach Lou Spanos. They will talk scheme and role and expectations. Perhaps they will watch some film as the Titans sell their situation.

Presumably Jackson will take a physical.

Perhaps as it wraps up, Ruston Webster or contract guru Vin Marino will talk contract parameters with Brian Mackler, Jackson’s agent.

I don’t think this is a scenario where the Titans, no matter how good they feel about Jackson, attempt to keep him from leaving town without signing.

Jackson is to visit the Broncos on Sunday, and is also reportedly fielding interest from Arizona. The Cardinals could be prepping to lose Karlos Dansby as a free agent, and Dansby is a player Whisenhunt knows well from time together in Arizona.

The Titans might love Jackson, who at 30 is two years younger than Dansby.

They might love Dansby more.

Maybe the Titans will wind up with Jackson. Maybe they’ll wind up with Dansby and create an opportunity for Jackson in Arizona. Maybe he’ll wind up with the Broncos. Maybe the Titans won't end up with either.

Maybe something happens fast for Jackson.

I suspect it’ll take a bit of time.

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