Steven King

Browns Try To Wow 'Em By Landing Whitner, Dansby

Created on Mar. 11, 2014 9:05 PM EST

Is it, “Wow!”

Or is it, “Whoa?!”

Actually, it may well be a little of both with the Cleveland Browns’ big splash right away as NFL free agency began on Tuesday.

It was more “Wow!” than “Whoa?!” with S Donte Whitner reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $28 million deal with his hometown team. Formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, the 28-year-old Whitner starred at Cleveland Glenville High School before moving on to Ohio State and made no bones about the fact that he wanted to come back home.

Cleveland hasn’t been a destination for many players lately, so when someone targets the town (ever hear of Bernie Kosar and Bob Golic?), the Browns have to jump at the chance to grab him, especially when he can play as well as Whitner.

It was a lot of money to shell out for a safety when the Browns already had a pretty good one of their own in the prime of his career in 27-year-old Pro Bowler T.J. Ward, whom they are letting walk in free agency.

But new coach Mike Pettine is into creating turnovers and defensing the pass and, because of that, he favored Whitner over Ward since he’s more of a ball hawk and is better in coverage. Ward hits like a sledgehammer, but that’s in the running game. He has always struggled against the pass.

And in case you haven’t noticed, teams are passing the ball a lot more than they’re running it in today’s NFL. That’s particularly the case in the AFC North with quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and even Andy Dalton. Plus Whitner has plenty of big-game experience, something these inexperienced and postseason-starved Browns sorely need.

But Whitner isn’t the only new player set to come to the Browns.

Karlos Dansby, an inside linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals, has reportedly agreed to a four-year contract of his own. It is said to be worth $24 million ($14 million guaranteed), including $10 million in the first year.

There is more “Whoa?!” than “Wow!” with his arrival.

Like Whitner, Dansby has a history of being a playmaker.  He is an upgrade – faster and a more disruptive force – than veteran ILB D’Qwell Jackson, whom the Browns chose not to re-sign.

That’s the “Wow!” of it.

And the “Whoa?!”?

It comes with the fact Dansby will turn 33 in November.

Throwing a lot of money at a good, young player is a wise move. But throwing a lot of money at an older good player – one whose best days are certainly behind him – is a real head-scratcher. Wouldn’t the Browns have been better served to try to find a younger replacement for Jackson elsewhere in free agency, where they still have plenty of spend, or in the NFL Draft, where they have a bevy of picks (including two first-rounders)?

Dansby is known as a great team leader, but the Browns already had one in Jackson.

There are exceptions to the adage that older is not better and maybe Dansby is one of them. If so, then the Browns beat the odds and made a good signing. But if not, then they will end up swinging and missing with Dansby more than they will be hitting home runs.

For a team that needs lots of the latter, that’s a big “Whoa?!” moment.