ARIZONA CARDINALS

Karlos Dansby one of 25 ‘must-sign’ free agents

Jan 14, 2014, 7:33 PM | Updated: 7:33 pm

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The Arizona Cardinals have expressed a desire to bring linebacker Karlos Dansby back next season, and he has maintained that he wouldn’t mind re-signing with the team.

But that guarantees nothing.

An unrestricted free agent after playing under a one-year deal, Dansby could command a salary the Cardinals are unwilling to pay. It wouldn’t be the first time the sides parted way because of money, and it would be no one’s fault if it happened again.

The question becomes, just how much do the Cardinals value a 32-year-old who is coming off a career season in which he had 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 4 interceptions and batted down a significant number of other passes?

That does not have to be answered yet, as teams are not able to sign free agents until March 12. But when the time comes, the Cardinals will have a choice to make with someone ESPN.com’s Mike Sando, in an Insider piece, has ranked among the top 25 ‘must-sign’ NFL free agents.

Sando spoke with league GMs when compiling the list, which has Dansby ranked 13th.

Inside linebackers generally aren’t a priority to re-sign at age 32, but Dansby could be an exception. He played more snaps than anyone on the Cardinals defense. Dansby picked off four passes and returned two of them for touchdowns. He broke up 13 passes by either batting the ball, tipping it or getting credit for a pass defensed. The Cardinals have front-line talent at every level of their defense whether or not Dansby returns, but they would have a hard time replacing what he has provided. He and Bennett ranked among the top one-year rentals in 2013. They have earned new deals.

In his career, Dansby has been credited with 823 total tackles along with 38 sacks, 15 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries. He was one of the unquestioned leaders of a Cardinals defense that ranked first in the NFL against the run and sixth overall, and was arguably one of the biggest snubs for the 2014 Pro Bowl.

However, Dansby was named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press, which was another sign of just how good he was in 2013.

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