INDIANAPOLIS -- Re-signing inside linebacker Karlos Dansby is one of the top priorities of the offseason for Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim. But he also knows it will be difficult to pull off.
Last year, Dansby was the most valuable player on one of the NFL's top defenses. His leadership was invaluable. So was his intelligence, and he called all the defensive signals.
But Dansby also thinks he deserves to be paid like one of the NFL's top linebackers. He made $2.25 million last year on a one-year deal. Dansby wants to be paid, but Keim knows it is not prudent to sign a 32-year-old linebacker to a long-term, lucrative deal.
"He's a great leader. He's a good football player," Keim said this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Hopefully, we can get something done, but you have to be prepared to move on, from any player."
The Cardinals are in a tough position because Dansby is close to irreplaceable. The other inside linebacker, Daryl Washington, is immensely talented. But he also was suspended for four games a year ago, and is facing assault charges as a result of an alleged domestic incident.
The Cardinals, however, are not going to bowl Dansby over with a rich offer early in free agency. In his first year as general manager, Keim showed great patience in free agency and picked up bargains late in the process, including Dansby.
The Cardinals likely will wait to see what market there is for Dansby. And they are hoping that Dansby realizes Arizona is a nice place to finish his career.
At the combine, Keim lauded Dansby but tried to make the case that the Cardinals are prepared to move on if necessary.
"That's why we drafted Kevin Minter in the second round last year," Keim said. "We saw some good things out of Kevin in training camp, in preseason football. And that's how you have to build your team.
"You know, at times, you are going to lose players. You have to have the right kind of depth. That's why on draft day you can never draft for need because needs are always changing."
Minter, however, hardly played on defense as a rookie. He had four tackles for the season, all on special teams. In training camp, he looked physical and competent against the run, but he struggled at times in coverage.
He does not appear to have Dansby's speed and range, two important attributes for a linebacker in the NFC West. Dansby's athletic ability proved to be an asset when playing against San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson.