Linebacker Karlos Dansby (right) signs his new one-year contract alongside team president Michael Bidwill Friday morning.
The free agent market wasn't was Karlos Dansby wanted – and he was surprised he was swimming in those waters in the first place – but in the end, the lure to return to his original team was too great.
So the veteran linebacker, who still lives in the Arizona home he owned during his first six years in the NFL as a Cardinal, took a one-year contract worth less than he had been hoping for Friday. It didn't dampen his smile at all.
"It's unbelievable, man," Dansby said right after signing his new deal. "To have this opportunity, with Mr. (Michael) Bidwill and his vision and Coach (Bruce) Arians' vision, (defensive coordinator) Todd Bowles, the whole team has a vision and I'm part of that vision.
"It's a great feeling to have when the organization wants you. They wanted me back. It's awesome. It's awesome right now."
A few hours later, addressing the media, his excitement hadn't changed.
"It's a dream come true, to get an opportunity to try and get into the Ring of Honor, try to be legendary," Dansby said. "You can't really put a price tag on that."
After spending three years with the Dolphins before being cut earlier this offseason, Dansby returned to the Cardinals at a good
time. Daryl Washington set to sit out the first four games of the regular season with an NFL suspension and also dealing with pending legal issues, Dansby's presence helps an inside linebackers corps that includes newcomer Jasper Brinkley, draftee Kevin Minter and Reggie Walker.
His versatility and leadership is why the Cardinals wanted him, Arians said. Dansby has played both inside linebacker positions in Bowles' system – both were in Miami in 2010 – and Dansby said he could play wherever the Cards needed him. That would work well if Dansby and Washington can get on the field together.
After playing through a torn biceps muscle last season – and totaling a career-high 133 total tackles for Miami – Dansby was released after Miami signed free agent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby had been scheduled to make $6.05 million this season.
"It was definitely a humbling experience," Dansby said. "I've never been through anything like that. Once it happened I had to sit back and relax and take my time, evaluate all the situations."
Arians said the possibility of Dansby had been an internal topic for about a month. In the meantime, Dansby had looks from various teams – Cincinnati, Buffalo, Atlanta and the Giants all at least called – and at that point, Dansby admitted, "my price was pretty high."
"I can't lie," Dansby added.
But today's NFL meant Dansby was going to have to readjust.
"The numbers situation right now with the new CBA is totally different," Dansby said. "The numbers have changed, they flipped, and you have to make the best decision for you."
It made sense that it was once Arizona called. The Cards, like everyone else, were only offering a one-year deal. But In Arizona, not only did Dansby have a home but also cars and all of "Team Dansby," he half-joked, a group of trainers who help him work out in the offseason.
Dansby was part of the Cardinals' impressive 2004 draft haul that included wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the first round, Dansby in the second, Darnell Dockett in the third and defensive end Antonio Smith in the fifth. He was one of the anchors of the Cards' defense that helped the team win back-to-back NFC West titles.
But the Cardinals couldn't get him to ink a contract extension. He played under the franchise tag in both 2008 and 2009, making a total of more than $17 million those seasons. At one point, the team thought they had an extension worked out, but Dansby decided not to sign the deal and instead changed agents. Allowed to reach free agency after the 2009 season, the Dolphins signed him to a five-year deal worth up to $43 million.
In his three years in Miami, Dansby had six sacks and an interception while starting all but three games. Dansby has 31½ sacks and 11 interceptions in his career.
Dansby, who will turn 32 in November, said it felt like a different organization to which he was returning, which intrigued him knowing the team has struggled in recent years.
"Even (team president) Michael Bidwill, he was all relaxed," Dansby said of his contract signing earlier in the day. "He had jeans on and a button-down shirt and I'd never seen him dress like that. Always saw him in a tie. There's just a new feel. It's perfect."
Arians, who was pushing for the move, agreed, saying after the opening of rookie minicamp, "the rookies were fun, but signing Karlos made my day."
Dansby hasn't even had a chance to work with his veteran teammates, all of whom aren't due back until Monday.
"Dockett (the other day) was like, 'You sign yet?' and I was like, 'No man, I'm just on a visit,' " Dansby said. "He was pressing the issue. And the feeling was mutual. I have a lot of respect for him and Fitz, and both them guys were hitting me up all day, 'What are you gonna do, you gonna sign, you gonna come back?'
"It just fit. Those guys want to right the ship, turn things around. I want to be a part of it."