TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals wanted to bring Karlos Dansby back, and Dansby himself had said he would like to return.
For the right price, of course.
As it turned out, Dansby was offered a contract he apparently couldn’t refuse by the Cleveland Browns, signing a four-year, $24 million deal, with $14 million guaranteed.
It’s a lot for a 32-year-old linebacker coming off a career season, and no one could blame the former second-round pick for taking it.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some disappointment.
“He chased the money,” Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said Thursday. “I’ve got a lot of respect for our guy that left, I love him like a brother. But we were one or two pieces away from really making a lot of noise.”
Dockett and Dansby were part of the same 2004 draft class that helped reshape the Cardinals roster. The two helped lead Arizona to Super Bowl XLIII and then the playoffs the following season, but the linebacker bolted for Miami the following offseason.
He returned to the Valley last season on a one-year deal, and tallied 122 tackles (114 solo) with 6.5 sacks, four interceptions and 19 passes defensed for a Cardinals team that finished sixth in the NFL in total defense and number one against the run.
Dockett is confident the Cardinals will be able to move on without Dansby, as he believes the coaching staff, front office and ownership will find players who can fill the void left by his departure. But that doesn’t mean losing him doesn’t sting.
“I personally feel like he chased the money versus chasing a ring,” Dockett said. “No knock towards Cleveland — I don’t want people to try to think I’m saying Cleveland doesn’t have a chance; everybody has a chance — but I just felt like it was made for him to be here.”
There’s little doubt the Cardinals would have been better off with Dansby still in the fold. Besides his on-field play, the linebacker was well regarded in the locker room and was one of the team’s leaders. He will be missed.
“But again, the financial part is totally different — I don’t know anything about that,” Dockett said. “But when you look at everything we’d done this year; the sacrifices our defensive line made for that certain individual to make his plays and go into a game not being selfish. Our defensive line doesn’t care about sacks and tackles. We come in to do a job, to hold guys off our linebackers so we can be the number one defense.
“I just think that opportunity was to be right here, to really get to the playoffs and make a run for it.”
The run for the playoffs will still happen, just without Dansby. For the second time in four years, he left a 10-win Cardinals team for a bigger contract with a team coming off a losing season.
Given the nature of the NFL and how short one’s career in the league can be, it’s tough to begrudge a player for doing just that, even if it sounds like Dockett is doing exactly that.
“I’m not going to complain about spilled milk. I wish him well in Cleveland,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’ll see who’s where at the end of the season.”