At the end of last week we were slipped the hope that the Arizona Cardinals and franchised-linebacker Karlos Dansby were making progress towards a new deal, but just as Red warned up in Shawshank, hope isn't always a good thing:
As the week as has unfolded, we've learned that Dansby fired his agent over the weekend and he has doubts that a long term deal will be negotiated. He's gone on to say that the two sides were never close to getting a deal done and has mentioned that he's looking forward to making a 'splash' in free agency next year:
"It's an uncapped year next year and I'm mentioned among the better linebackers in the league as far as the guys who are going to be up next year also," Dansby said. "So why not show what I've got? I'm up for the challenge. Make a splash, man."
So where does that leave the Cardinals and what options do they have?
As with most scenerios in this league there doesn't seem to be an easy answer. It's still possible that the two sides could reach a long term deal, although if I'm the Cardinals I wouldn't hold my breath on any 'hometown discounts.' Obviously Dansby will have to hire a new agent before the two sides can resume talks so it's probably fair to say that a deal won't be reached before the draft. It's also possible (notice I said possible and not probable or certainly not likely) that the Cardinals could trade Dansby. It's rare that 'franchised' players are tagged, Matt Cassel not with standing, but unless the Cardinals could secure another linebacker or a pick in which they could draft a backer who could start as a rookie in the trade, I highly doubt this is being considered among the Cardinals front office.
With all that being said, it's beginning to look like the Karlos Dansby will play the 2009 season under the tag for a second consecutive season and become a free agent next off season. Whether or not the NFL is uncapped or not in 2010, the Cardinals will be bidding for his services against every other team that is hungry for a very good linebacker. So does the uncertainty of Dansby's future change the Cardinals draft plans in 2009?
Since I'm sure someone is thinking, "wait, wait, wait....Can't we just tag him for a third consecutive season?"
And the answer is yes, the Cardinals can slap the franchise tag on Dansby next off season but instead of paying him the average of the top 5 paid linebackers, they'd pay him the average of top 5 players in the league (regardless of position). In that case we'd be talking about a figure north of $16 million and I don't think the Cardinals are wiling to go there.
So that leaves the Cardinals looking ahead at the 2010 season with the possibility of a gaping hole in the middle of their defense. Now they could always wait to cross that bridge when they get there or they could look at some of the middle linebackers who might be available in the middle rounds this season with the hope (there's that word again) that they'd be able to step into the starting lineup in 2010.
- Darnell Ellerbe (6'1 236) - Georgia: Ellerbe's a tad undersized and often relies to much on his athletic ability, but is very aggressive and capable of a big hit. He's one of the better linebackers in the draft in coverage and an above average blitzer for an inside backers. He's played all three LB spots at Georgia so he's got some versatility but he's also got some injury concerns. Projected Round: 3rd
- Scott McKillop (6'1 245) - Pittsburgh: McKillop's not the best athlete by any means but he still manages to get the job done (288 tackles, 27.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks over the past two seasons). He's got great instincts and is a solid tackler with a non stop motor. He didn't wow anyone at the combine or pro day but that was expected. Projected Round. Projected Round: 4th
- Jasper Brinkley (6'2 250) - South Carolina: Brinkley's got great size, bulk and athleticism for a man of his size but teams will have to decide if they're getting the 2006 version or the 2008 version. In 2006 he racked up 107 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks but he hurt his knee in 2007 and hasn't looked the same since. In 2008 he managed just 65, 5, 2.5, respectively. When fully healthy he's an athletic 'thumper' with punishing tackling skills and plus pass rush chops. Projected Round 4th - 5th
- Frantz Joseph (6'2 243) - Florida Atlantic: Joseph is an productive as they come with 285 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in the past two seasons, but his upside is limited. Most scouts consider him a two down player as he's physical tackler who plays best when working down hill. He'll have to improve in coverage to become an every down backer. Projected Round: 5th
- Jason Phillips (6'1 236) - TCU: Phillips biggest problem is that he tore a meniscus in his knee and will miss some, if not most, of the 2009 season, but that could play into the Cardinals plans. Phillips isn't a great athlete but he's extremely tough and has great instincts. He has a non stop motor and is a leader on the field. He's not as tall as some would prefer though and he needs to get better in pass coverage and blitzing. Projected Round: 5th - 6th
That's just a taste of some of the guys who could fill a Dansby void in 2010 but we may be getting ahead of ourselves. Do you think Dansby will resign either this year or next year? Does the possibility of an uncapped season help or hurt the Cardinals chances?