Well one of the biggest non-secrets in recent memory has played out much like we all thought it would. The Cardinals franchised Karlos Dansby in February and at the time, both sides were reportedly optimistic about reaching a long term deal. It turns out though that they weren't ever very close to agreeing on Dansby's value. As a result, Dansby will play the 2008 season with just over $8 million guaranteed and then he'll be an unrestricted free agent. I've mentioned several times that Dansby wanted/wants a deal that averages $9 million a season. Just as a point of reference, the only linebacker who made over $9 million in 2007 was nine time Pro-Bowler, six time All-Pro, Ray Lewis. So is Dansby crazy to think that he deserves that kind of money?
Absolutely, Pay the Man!! - First in order to put Ray Lewis' contract in context, we
have to realize that it was signed in 2002 and obviously today's dollars don't equal the money of 2002. The fact that Calvin Pace's contract is for almost the same amount per season is evidence of the inflated value of contracts in today's NFL. Dansby is entering his prime right now and the next four to five seasons could borderline on truly special. His game really took off in 2007 with the defensive transition from a 4-3 OLB to a 3-4 ILB and he'll be even more comfortable in the system in 2008. He was just one tackle shy of leading the team despite missing two games and his tackles per game (6.93) was the best of any Cardinal. He also proved that he has a well rounded game leading all Cardinal linebackers in passes defended, interceptions and forced fumbles. The team keeps bringing up Tatupa and Brigg's recent contracts as measuring sticks for Dansby but if you project his stats over a full 16 games, he'd have more tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions that both of them. Bottom line: Dansby's been a good player and with another season learning the 3-4, he'll step forward as one of the premier linebackers in the NFL.
Come on Karlos, You're Joking Right?? - Nine million a season is a ton of money for any player, even in today's NFL. Dansby has yet to make a Pro Bowl or top 100 tackles in a season. There are also some concerns about his ability to stay healthy being that he's yet to play a full 16 game season. He's a good, solid player but he's not elite. There are also some rumors that the team is a bit reluctant to ink Dansby to a mega-deal considering his history of missing practice because of minor injuries and frustrating the coaching staff (mainly the former, Dennis Green). Bottom line: He's seeking the contract of an elite, top tier player, but he's not there yet.
The real bottom line is that the Cardinals want to pay Dansby for what he's done and Dansby wants to be paid for what he could do. A case could be made either way and quite honestly I can see the arguments on both sides. I'd imagine that Dansby doesn't have to look far to see a guy who was paid for what he'd done and is now underpaid (Dockett). He's also very familiar with a guy getting paid for what he could do (Pace). At the moment, he seems content with playing out this season with the Cardinals and then testing the free agent waters. A breakout season (something like 130 tackles, 5 sacks) could land him the mega-deal that he's seeking, but where will that contract come from? The Cardinals could also franchise Dansby for a second year in a row if they wants and his one year, guaranteed salary would jump above $9 million. So what would you have done if your were the Cardinals front office? Is he worth $9 million a year, if not what is he worth? Do you think the Cardinals have any chance to lock him up after this season, like the Bears did with Lance Briggs he played his 'franchise season?'