As we fast approach the “un-capped year,” of free agency (free agency begins on March 5, 2010), the Giants options at middle linebacker remain somewhat unclear. Unless Jerry Reese is willing to sacrifice draft picks to plug the hold in the middle of the Giant defense (after the release of long-time leader Antonio Pierce) and add a player like Houston’s DeMeco Ryans or Tampa’s Barrett Ruud, the Giants will either look to the draft in the early rounds or try to secure either Colts MLB Gary Brackett or Cardinals backer Karlos Dansby through free agency.
Bill Polian of the Colts has already expressed that the Colts desire to bring back Brackett within reason and Dansby is a true unrestricted free agent who has expressed a desire to join one of four teams (Redskins, Dolphins, Chargers and, yes, the New York Giants. Dansby’s interest in the G-men may be genuine, he has previously expressed his desire to play for a big market team after spending his first six seasons in Arizona.
Dansby led the Cardinals in tackles this past year (109 tackles for the season) and has been very durable during his six seasons in the desert (Dansby has missed six games in six seasons). At twenty-nine years of age, Dansby is entering his prime. Dansby is adept in pass coverage (10 interceptions during his Cardinals tenure) and also has shown to be a very good at getting to the quarterback and making big plays (25.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles).
Dansby will turn 30 in November and any team paying him a big money contract has to worry about his production towards the back-end of any long-term deal. Dansby won’t come cheap, he played the past two seasons as a franchised player, so Dansby is ready to test the free agent waters for the first time and secure a big money deal. Also, for all of Dansby’s production, the Cardinals have been a middle-of-the-road defensive unit for the past three seasons (overall defensive ranking of 17th, 19th, and 20th for 2007 through 2009). Most troubling, the Cardinals gave up 4.5 yards per carry in 2009, and the Giants are looking to improve against the rush after giving up 4.2 yards per carry this past season. Oh, and did we mention that Dansby will be a very expensive signing?
And a Giant question remains about whether Dansby can make the transition to a 4-3 scheme where he would man the middle after playing in a 3-4 scheme for the Cardinals. If Jerry Reese pursues Dansby and signs him to a big money, long-term deal, he better be sure Dansby can not only be effective in the 4-3 scheme, but also excel and be a play-maker.