Linebacker Karlos Dansby (58) is scheduled to become a free agent after the season.
Adrian Wilson doesn't want to hide the bias, so he fesses up. He and Karlos Dansby are tight.
Their wives are good friends; Wilson said Dansby is his closest friend on the team.
So that's the prism within which the Cardinals' safety evaluates the linebacker, a linebacker who is playing under the franchise tag this season and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
"Karlos," Wilson said, "is the type of player we need to keep."
It's Dansby's skills on the field that generate Wilson's response. And there has been little question the Cardinals want to keep their 2004 second-round pick around long-term.
They can't do it right now – under the rules of the franchise tag, Dansby is collecting a one-year salary of more than $8 million, but the team cannot re-sign him to a new deal until the season is over. The two sides tried to talk about a long-term deal last offseason before the tag was used, but Dansby eyed the monster contract former teammate Calvin Pace got from the Jets (six years, $42 million with $22 million in guarantees) and talks went nowhere.
In the meantime, Dansby waits.
"I am in the dark right now," Dansby said. "I don't have a clue what will take place.
"I know we have different guys who want new contracts and their situations are coming up also. But here I am staring them in the face saying, 'What are you gonna do?' If their hands are tied, I understand. It's a business and if I have to, I will move on and continue my career elsewhere."
Dansby isn't thrilled not knowing what the future brings, but that hasn't affected him. Wilson said his friend hasn't worried about it and linebackers coach Bill Davis praised Dansby for shutting out the potential distraction.
Davis and Dansby had talks about the situation in the offseason, with Davis dispensing advice based on players in similar situations Davis coached in the past.
"He is professional as can be, comes into work, dives into studying," Davis said. "Never talks about it, brings it up. It's all about football. It's about winning each game. He never complains."
Dansby leads the Cardinals in tackles (52), has three sacks and has recovered a pair of fumbles. He has been a steady if not spectacular contributor this season, but Davis said Dansby has played well.
Dansby said he waits for his opportunities and when chances to make big plays are there, he tries to take advantage – "It could be more, but I'm not greedy," he said – and noted he has talented teammates who can also make an impact.
Dansby's role changes from week-to-week, sometimes as a primary blitzer and sometimes not blitzing at all, which Davis said can skew statistics.
"It's not about sacks or interceptions," Davis said. "It's about how well do you play your position. So far, there are no complaints with Karlos."
That's helped because Dansby has proven to be a complete linebacker who can be used in pass rush or coverage.
That's why, friendship aside, Wilson views Dansby as a crucial piece to the team.
"He is one of those guys who I think is very important for the success of this defense down the road," Wilson said.
Wilson chuckled and said he planned to take Dansby on vacation with him Feb. 28, when free agency begins, just to keep Dansby from leaving Arizona.
"It is hard," Wilson said. "I know it would be hard for me not knowing what will happen. I
know* he wants to be here. Hopefully this is his first option, to come back."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 10/30/08.