The Cardinals used their franchise tag on free-agent-to-be Karlos Dansby on Thursday, all but assuring he will remain a Cardinal in 2008.
In a move long expected, the Cardinals placed their franchise tag on linebacker Karlos Dansby Thursday, the first time the team has used the tag since 2002.
Dansby gets the "non-exclusive" tag, meaning he can still negotiate with other teams as a free agent and sign an offer sheet if he chooses. If that happens, the Cardinals can either match the offer or the team must give the Cards two first-round draft picks.
Because of the stiff price, few teams are willing to even think about trying to sign a player who has been hit with the franchise designation.
But general manager Rod Graves called the move a "formality," with the team wanting to ink Dansby long-term.
"We certainly consider Karlos one of our prize players," Graves said. "He is one of the more talented linebackers in the NFL. I certainly believe his agent and I will work aggressively to get a long-term deal before the deadline."
Graves said coach Ken Whisenhunt spoke to Dansby about the move and to assure the player the team wants him around. Graves did the same with Dansby's agent, Kirk Wood.
Dansby's one-year tender offer is worth $8.065 million. The Cards can continue to negotiate with Dansby until July 15 in an attempt to work out a long-term deal. If no deal is worked out by then, Dansby must play the entire season under the tag and cannot sign a new deal with the Cards until after the 2008 season.
Dansby must sign the offer sheet before he is required to take part in any mandatory offseason work. He could hold off on signing the offer sheet and stay away from the team's workouts; the Cardinals can also rescind the offer at any time before it is signed.
"A lot of players worry about the tag, they want some stability (of a long-term deal)," Dansby said in December. "But I think (being tagged) would be an honor."
The day after the season ended, Dansby said he didn't think the situation would come to a tag because a new contract would be worked out.
The Cardinals and Wood have had few significant contract discussions over the past few months. Graves expects that to change soon.
Safety Kwamie Lassiter was the last Cardinal to receive the tag, back in 2002. He was then allowed to leave as a free agent after the 2002 season.
The Cards buy some time in the Dansby negotiations because there are other pressing issues at the moment. Fellow linebacker Calvin Pace – whose deal is expected to be for less money than Dansby – is also scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the month.
And the team continues to try to forge a restructured deal with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in order to lower his unwieldy salary and subsequent salary cap hit.
Graves said talks are ongoing with both Fitzgerald and Pace, with Fitzgerald's deal still at the forefront. The two sides have traded proposals, and Graves earlier had said the team's offer would put Fitzgerald's contract "among the elite players."
Dansby had a good year in 2007, collecting a career-high 117 tackles in 14 games while moving inside in the new version of defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's scheme. Dansby also had 3½ sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Dansby was the Cards' second-round pick in 2004.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 2/14/08. Updated 2/14/08.