The Cardinals are extremely unikely to franchise tag Karlos Dansby this offseason. They have tagged him two times already which means that the raise he would receive if he were tagged again would near $17 million a season. The reports out of Arizona are the the Cardinals will allow Dansby to become a free agent in the hopes that they can re-sign him.
This leaves the door open for several other teams to put a bid on the Pro Bowl inside linebacker. A situation that Dansby thinks is going to net him a considerable amount of money as his potential suitors attempt to outbid one another.
There are a few teams that are in the market for an inside linebacker. That list is topped by the Giants, Steelers, Patriots, and Raiders. Of those teams, the one that looks to be the obvious choice is the Giants. They just cut Antonio Pierce and are looking to rebuild their formerly dominant defense. That rebuilding starts at linebacker.
The Steelers and Patriots have a leg up as well because they are winning franchises. Although neither team is known for spending big in free agency. They prefer to build through the draft and promote from within. Or, in the case of the Patriots, get bargains in NFL retirement homes on players who want one more shot at a ring.
So that leaves the Giants and Raiders as the remaining two teams with interest and willingness to spend a little on a big name in free agency. The need is great with the Giants but the pockets are deeper on Al Davis.
The Raiders have a wildcard that the Giants don't have in the form of their new defensive backs coach, Clancy Pendergast.** He was the Cardinals' defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2008. In his first season with the Cards, they drafted Dansby in the second round. Dansby immediately claimed the starting job as a rookie and improved every season under Pendergast.
In Pendergast's final season, he helped lead the Cardinals into Super Bowl XLIII but was fired less than one week after Arizona lost to Pittsburgh 27-23.
Pendergast is clearly a big fan of Dansby's play on the field. I fully expect that in discussions (we assume there are some that take place) about who to sign in the offseason, pendergast will push hard for the Raiders to make a run at his boy Karlos.
How much will Dansby be looking to get paid?
Well, after seeing the haul his former teammate Calvin Pace scored in free agency from the Jets two off-seasons ago, Dansby is reportedly looked for a contract with as much as $30 million guaranteed. That is some high hopes for compensation especially when you consider the fact that Dansby registered only one sack, one interception and one forced fumble last season. Although, to be fair, he played a key role in the Cardinals beating the Packers in the playoffs. He was part of all three of the Packers' turnovers. He deflected the intercepted pass that led to the Cardinals' first TD, forced a fumble that led to the second score and ended the game in overtime with his 17-yard fumble return for the game-winning score.
So the remaining question becomes: how much would Mr Davis be willing to spend to sign Dansby?
Based on the signings of the last couple of offseasons, one would think he would dig pretty deep. Probably not as deep as Dansby is expecting, but deeper than most, if not all, other teams. The situation that throws a wrench into that plan is the re-signing of Richard Seymour. The most likely and prudent move for the Raiders would be to sign him long term. But even if by some chance they can't agree on a deal, Seymour will be tagged. That franchise tag is around the same amount of money that Seymour would expect per season if he were to sign long-term. But it is worse because his entire tag amount of over $12 million, is guaranteed. Uncapped year or no, that is just a lot of money. Especially when you add the $15 mil salary of Nnamdi Asomugha, and the over $8 million tied up in highest paid kicker and punter NFL history. Not to mention writing huge checks every year to the last three top ten draft picks (all three of whom are either riding the bench or not earning their paychecks).
Davis already had to sell more minority shares in the team last year to pay salaries. And the discontent among the Raider Nation about the way the team is being handled is putting a bit of a pinch on his wallet too.
So my guess is that while Mr Davis would certainly like to have Dansby and will probably try to get him, in the end Dansby's asking price will be too steep. And I think that is really for the best. The Raiders don't need a player who doesn't think that $13 mil a year is enough to "take care of his family" and then publicly criticizes Roger Goodell for making $9 mil a year for "pushing a pencil." Remember, that Khalif Barnes tried to strong arm Al Davis last offseason and Davis turned him away until Barnes came crawling back to take a lesser contract.
For now I wish Dansby well in his quest to get paid as much or more than he is worth.