After a one-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby is returning to the Arizona Cardinals.
Dansby was not one of the key free agents the Bengals were worried about. The 35-year-old struggled in pass coverage last season, despite leading the team in tackles with 114 and starting all 16 games.
It didn’t take long for the Bengals to figure out Dansby’s weakness against the pass. He was picked on by Tom Brady for a pair of James White receiving touchdowns in Cincinnati’s 35-17 loss in Foxborough.
Dansby is on the backend of his long NFL career and is still after some hardware. That’s why he joined the Bengals after a two-year stint in Cleveland. But the Bengals’ defense, unfortunately, regressed for much of 2016.
When Paul Guenther‘s unit did turn things around in the second half of last season, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack. With A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Giovani Bernard out for the year, the Bengals lost five one-possession games after the bye week, despite the defense yielding just 15.6 points per game.
Dansby will be hoping the third time is the charm in the desert. He was a second-round pick in 2004 and spent six seasons with the Cardinals. After three years in Miami, he returned to Arizona for the 2013 season before his chapter in Cleveland.
His departure adds to the list of 2016 Bengals who’ve moved on. Andrew Whitworth also went to the NFC West, signing a three-year deal with the Rams. Fellow o-lineman Kevin Zeitler became the highest-paid guard in league history, signing with the Browns.
This comes at a time when the Bengals are looking to get younger at linebacker. Recently, the team has used free agency to sign a veteran at the position to a minimal deal. In 2013 it was James Harrison, then A.J. Hawk in 2015, and now Dansby. All three had underwhelming one-year trips to southwest Ohio.
Cincinnati could be searching for a young linebacker in the early rounds of next month’s draft. Expect the team to go exploring for young defensive options, both on the defensive line and at linebacker.
2016 third-rounder Nick Vigil is now looking at a shot to get more snaps on defense. He was impressive with six tackles in the season-finale win over Baltimore. In a fast-paced league, the Bengals will be aiming for speed on defense.