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Veteran Additions Hope Wins Are In The Cards

Free agent signees see better opportunity for success with new team


Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson is hoping to make it to the Super Bowl before the end of his career.

Tramon Williams was spoiled.

The Cardinals' veteran cornerback played the first eight years of his career with the Packers, making the playoffs seven times and winning a Super Bowl during that stint. Williams moved on to the Browns in free agency in 2014 and thought he was joining a club on the rise.

While it seems silly now, expectations were indeed higher for Cleveland that year, which was coming off a 7-9 finish. But the Browns sunk like a rock, winning just three games in 2015 before dropping to 1-15 in 2016. Williams was stunned.

"It was one of the hardest things I had to do," Williams said of his stint in Cleveland. "I've won a Super Bowl and we won one game last year. We played our heart out to win that game. I feel like that's my second-best (victory) in my career."

The Browns cut Williams loose this offseason, and when the Cardinals came calling early in training camp, it was music to his ears. They aren't Super Bowl favorites, but there is enough talent that a playoff run is realistic.

"That's all I'm asking for right now," Williams said, "an opportunity to win again."

The Cardinals added three veterans at the outset of free agency who have also dealt with more than their share of losing recently. Kicker Phil Dawson and safety Antoine Bethea went a combined 7-25 with the 49ers the past two seasons, while Dansby won nine games between stops with the Browns and the Bengals over that same span.

Dawson said he had been angling to join the Cardinals for a while because he believes in the infrastructure in place.

"If you can find yourself in a situation where, yes, you've got to perform to keep your job, but your team is winning, that's like icing on top," Dawson said. "As someone who is running out of next years, to be somewhere where there is an opportunity to win and make some waves in this league, that's an attractive thing."

While the situation here looks better than in some of his past stops, Dansby said he's never gone into a season feeling pessimistic about his team's chances. Even in Cleveland, his expectations were high, especially after finding some success in 2014.

"(Expletive), man, we were leading the division," Dansby said. "That was the first time they had been leading the division in, what, 20-something years? To see it all fall apart and unravel like that, and then the year after that, (expletive), we couldn't even win three ballgames, it was really disturbing."

But Dansby has found a silver lining. He said it's easier to identify issues that can fracture a team, which he can help nip in the bud if they pop up in the locker room this season.

"I've been through the worst," Dansby said. "I feel like I've been primed for a moment like this to bring what I've been able to learn over those years here. When I see it, just stop it before it happens. If we check our egos at the door across the board, heads down, we can be great. We've just got to listen to each other, trust each other and believe in one another. If we do that, the sky's the limit."

Bethea won a Super Bowl with the Colts as a rookie in 2006. Williams won his with the Packers in 2010. Dansby made it there with the Cardinals in 2008 but fell short.

Dawson, 42, has yet to get to the Super Bowl, and it was not going to happen this year if he remained with the 49ers. He hopes joining the Cardinals gives him a shot.

"I got close in '13," Dawson said. "Made it to the NFC Championship game (with San Francisco) and that was a lot of fun. To be at this point, to make a run at it, that would be pretty gratifying."

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