This was a fairly strong free agent class overall, but the one position where it was weak was at middle linebacker. Middle linebacker in general was a weak position in the NFL last season, as only 16 of 55 eligible middle linebackers on Pro Football Focus graded out positively last season. Karlos Dansby was by far the best of the free agent middle linebackers and Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked middle linebacker last season.
The Browns were one of the league’s neediest teams in terms of the middle linebacker position with D’Qwell Jackson gone and Craig Robertson not resembling a starting caliber middle linebacker (52nd out of 55 eligible last season). They cut Jackson, saving 5.23 million on the cap in doing so, and get Dansby at 24 million over 4 years (6 million dollar annual value). This deal has 14 million guaranteed, but none after the first two years, so it’s essentially a two-year, 14 million dollar deal, which is good in case he begins to decline.
Dansby might never have another year as good as last season again, as he’s going into his age 33 season, and as he had never been a top-10 middle linebacker on Pro Football Focus before this, but he graded out 12th in 2010, 11th in 2011, and 13th in 2012. He’s two years older than Jackson, but he’s still an upgrade at a comparable cost, as Jackson was Pro Football Focus’ 42nd ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible last season. Considering Jackson got 22 million over 4 with the Colts, with 11 million guaranteed, and the Browns had money to spend, this is a solid deal.