Dec 8, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby (56) celebrates with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) after returning an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals: Karlos Dansby Staying or Going?

One of the biggest decisions the Arizona Cardinals will have to make this offseason is what to do with Karlos Dansby. He was one of the bright spots for the league’s No. 7 scoring defense, but he’s also a man without a contract. He didn’t get signed until late in the offseason last year, but he wasn’t exactly in demand then.

Dansby played on a one-year contract worth about $2.25 million in 2013. All he did was come out and have one of the finest seasons of his career. He had 6.5 sacks, four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 19 passes defensed and 113 solo tackles. As far as production versus salary, the Cardinals got every penny out of Dansby.

That doesn’t change the fact that Dansby will be 33 in November, which isn’t exactly the typical linebacker’s prime years to produce. In fact, since 1989, there have been only 11 occurrences of linebackers at or above the age of 33 who have recorded 100 or more tackles. The last was Ray Lewis in 2010 and before that was Donnie Edwards and Zach Thomas in 2006.

Dansby deserves a raise (and will get one), but how much should the Cardinals give him? There’s no question that Dansby would love to have a multi-year contract, but hitching the wagon to a guy who’s on the downside of his career isn’t something most smart front offices would do.

The problem that Dansby has here is his leverage isn’t as great as it appears. There’s a general consensus that the reason Dansby had such a great year was because of the attention being paid to Daryl Washington. When the offense has to key on him, it frees Dansby up to make plays. Obviously, he won’t automatically have that luxury anywhere else.

Luckily for Cardinal fans, Dansby says he wants to stay:

I definitely expect to be an Arizona Cardinal next year. We don’t have long here (before free agency), so we’ll get to talking and try and hammer something out.

Dansby believes he can be the best linebacker in the league, which shows that he’s got no lack of confidence:

I’ve got some things up my sleeve to solidify myself as the best linebacker in the league, period. I let it slip through my fingers last season. I won’t let it happen again.

Terrific defensive players have to be confident. They need the kind of swagger that Dansby is showing. With that said, the Cardinals need to tread lightly. Giving Dansby too much would be akin to giving Michael Floyd too much (Larry Fitzgerald helps Floyd succeed because of the attention).

Two years wouldn’t be out of the question but anything over $4 million is probably too much. If the market is as cold as it was for Dansby last year, a two-year, $8 million deal should work out just fine.

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