Linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) congraulates fellow linebacker John Abraham (55) -- along with defensive end Calais Campbell -- after an Abraham sack Sunday against the Rams.
Steve Keim didn't need to camp out for good deals on Black Friday. He did his bargain shopping in the offseason, and gave himself and his team the best veteran presents – or is it presence? -- money could buy.
While other teams shied away from aging linebackers Karlos Dansby and John Abraham in free agency over the summer, the Cardinals' first-year general manager inked both to team-friendly contracts. The additions proved masterful again on Sunday, as
the veteran duo helped lead the Cardinals to a 30-10 victory over the Rams.
The 35-year-old Abraham had five tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Abraham also added a safety when he pulled down Kellen Clemens in the end zone to give the Cardinals a 23-3 lead with 9:10 remaining in the third quarter. The 32-year-old Dansby finished the game with eight tackles, a sack and a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Dansby played the first six years of his career with the Cardinals before signing a 5-year, $43-million contract with the Dolphins in 2010. He stayed there for three seasons but was released in March, a move which Dansby said lit a fire within him.
"It was a lot of disrespect in that situation and it motivated me, without a doubt," said Dansby, who signed a one-year, $2.25-million contract with the Cardinals in May. "And you can see the outcome from that."
Dansby's biggest contribution came on the second play of the third quarter when Calais Campbell pressured Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens, who as he was falling threw a pass intended for tight end Jared Cook. Dansby stepped in, picked it off and returned it for a score and a 21-3 lead. It was Dansby's second pick-six in the past three weeks following one against Andrew Luck and the Colts.
He now has 105 tackles, six sacks, three interceptions, a forced fumble and 17 passes defensed on the season.
Dansby has been one of the better linebackers in the NFL for much of his career, but he's never been to a Pro Bowl. It sounds like
the campaign has started.
"It's been so great to have him back," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's our emotional leader. He's our bell cow for our team and having him back playing at the level he's playing at is great. If anybody's watching tonight, make sure you go home and vote for him for the Pro Bowl so we can get him across the water (to Hawaii)."
Abraham entered this season under a different scenario. He had 10 sacks for the Falcons last season but was released in March, also because of a big 2013 salary. He contemplated retirement instead of moving to a new city and starting with a different organization.
He decided to play, but despite a stellar career, there wasn't much demand. He signed with the Cardinals for two years and $4.6 million late in July as a pass-rushing specialist.
"At 35, that's young in life, but in football, that's a graveyard," Abraham said.
Abraham was close a few times but was sackless for the first six weeks. Since then, he has 11 sacks and four forced fumbles in seven games. He stepped into the starting lineup after injuries to Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander and now plays a great majority of the snaps.
Abraham surpassed Lawrence Taylor and Leslie O'Neal for ninth place on the all-time sack list with 133 in his career with is hat trick Sunday.
"Passing L.T. was one of my goals coming into the year," Abraham said. "I always try to get 10 every year, and I knew 10 would put me right there."
Abraham is the first Cardinals player to register double-digit sacks in a season since Bertrand Berry, who made the Pro Bowl after putting up 14½ in 2004.
Sunday's game came to a fitting conclusion when Abraham and Dansby met at the quarterback to seal the game with a late sack. Abraham got the credit, but both players again illustrated their worth.
"People thought I was done, washed up," Dansby said. "Not on my watch."