Ironically, his best season with the Dolphins may also be his last.
It sounds strange, I know.
Let me explain.
Dansby is on pace for a 129-tackle season despite playing most of it with a torn biceps.
He has been one of the league's most proficient linebackers in pass coverage as well. Dansby has been thrown at 62 times and allowed only 41 completions, giving him the seventh best percentage caught-rate among inside linebackers (per Pro Football Focus).
Quarterbacks also have a pedestrian 88.2 rating when throwing into his coverage.
Despite his performance, there are a number of factors that make Dansby an appealing candidate for the chopping block following this season.
First, there's his contract, which is the most important factor in the equation. He's due approximately $15 million over the next two years, which is serious money for anybody, let alone a 31-year-old linebacker who has underachieved and has to undergo biceps surgery after this season.
Dansby's age will also play a major role in his future with the team because the Dolphins are in the midst of a rebuilding phase. Given the barren state of this offense and secondary (save Reshad Jones and occasionally Sean Smith), this team is at least two or three years away from emerging as a legitimate contender.
How does an aging, overpaid linebacker fit into their plans?
Also, Dansby's statistics aren't necessarily indicative of his impact.
A linebacker making this kind of money should be a domineering force on the field—one that makes game-changing plays and keep offensive coordinators up at night.
Dansby's isn't that kind of force.
He has only one sack in 907 snaps—though, in his defense, that's largely a byproduct of Kevin Coyle's reluctance to blitz his linebackers—zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles. Dansby may be a tackling machine, but that's about all he is at this point. And while everybody is concerned with the offense's lack of playmakers, the same issue is currently plaguing this defense.
The Dolphins have only nine interceptions this season (fourth fewest in the NFL) and three recovered fumbles (second fewest).
It's time for Jeff Ireland—or whoever replaces him—to reevaluate this defense and start replenishing it with playmakers. Outside of Cameron Wake and Reshad Jones, the Dolphins defense doesn't have any explosive players who can make that game-sealing or game-changing play.
Considering the middle linebacker is the quarterback and anchor of a defense, that wouldn't be a bad place to start.
There's no doubt Dansby is still capable of playing at a very high level, but he's not an elite player—and that's what he's being paid as. When the Dolphins signed him in 2010, he was supposed to be one of the final pieces to a championship puzzle.
Remember, Chad Henne was being hailed as the second coming of Dan Marino, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were coming off of productive seasons, Brandon Marshall was brought in to solidify the wide receiver corps, and Vontae Davis and Sean Smith were supposed to become a dominant duo.
Of course, none of these prophecies came to fruition, and the Dolphins once again find themselves rebuilding around a young quarterback and new head coach.
While Dansby fit into the 2010 team's plans, he's in a precarious spot with this current one moving forward.
Parting with him obviously has its drawbacks, though.
Cutting Dansby would create a void at linebacker, and let's face it, the last thing the Dolphins need is another hole to fill. But, while it might hurt the Dolphins in the short-term, the freed cap space will help them in the long run.
Plus, many of the league's best inside linebackers—Brandon Spikes, Navarro Bowman, DeMeco Ryans, Daryl Washington, Bobby Wager and Dansby himself—were drafted in the second or third rounds. The Dolphins wouldn't necessarily have to spend a high draft pick or shell out a big contract to a free agent, though they do have enough trade ammo to move up and draft Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o.
Dansby's future with the team will hinge largely on who Miami's GM is in 2013, whether it's the man who signed him, Jeff Ireland, or somebody else who has no loyalty toward him and is more inclined to further overhaul the roster.
Either way, this is all just pure speculation about one potential scenario that could unfold following yet another disappointing season.
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