BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns on Wednesday signed two unrestricted free agents, linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive back Donte Whitner.
The additions give Cleveland a pair of veteran leaders coming off respective All-Pro and Pro Bowl seasons, bolstering a Browns defense that ranked No. 9 in the NFL last season. Dansby and Whitner represent the first two players signed by the Browns in the new league year.
“I’d like to welcome these players to Cleveland,” said General Manager Ray Farmer. “Our goal is to assemble comprehensive units on both sides of the ball that can compete for a championship. Winning is a shared charge and we want players with a shared mission: Turning this team and this town around. Another pillar in our culture is that every player we identify and acquire will have the ability to compete for a starting role.”
“Both of these guys are a great fit for what we like to do,” said Head Coach Mike Pettine. “Donte grew up right here in Cleveland and he knows what style of football we play in our division. He’s an explosive hitter, a tone-setter with a history of production. Karlos is a durable, dependable professional who makes guys around him better. He’s a rangy linebacker who can cover and play three downs. He’s an intellectual leader, a QB in a defense, and I’m sure he’ll know our system inside, outside and backward. We want to be the toughest team on the field and these players both embody that.”
Dansby, a 6-4, 250-pound inside linebacker in his 11th NFL season out of Auburn, earned second-team Associated Press All-Pro honors during a career year in 2013. Helping Arizona to a 10-6 record, Dansby served as the centerpiece of a unit that finished sixth in the NFL in yards and seventh in scoring. He led the Cardinals and posted career highs in both tackles (135) and interceptions (four), two of which he returned for touchdowns, and added a career-high 21 passes defensed, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Dansby became just the fourth NFL player with at least six sacks, four interceptions and two interception-return touchdowns in a season since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
Originally drafted by Arizona in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft (33rd overall), Dansby has started 143 of his 152 career games, missing just eight contests in 10 seasons. The only active NFL player with at least 30 career sacks and 15 career interceptions, he has totaled 1,090 tackles, 38 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, 15 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries and four defensive scores.
Dansby spent his first six seasons (2004-09) with the Cardinals before signing with the Miami Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent in 2010. He played three years in Miami (2010-12) before re-joining Arizona last season. He has produced seven 100-tackle seasons and has led his team in tackles six times.
In college, Dansby started at strong safety before shifting to linebacker as a sophomore. He appeared in 36 games for the Tigers and totaled 218 tackles, 10 sacks, eight interceptions, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries and was a first-team All-America selection as a senior. Dansby is native of Birmingham, Ala., where he attended Woodlawn High School.
Whitner, a 5-10, 208-pound safety entering his ninth season out of Ohio State, is a Cleveland native who attended Glenville High School. Selected to the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons with San Francisco, helping the Niners to the league’s final four each year, Whitner started all 16 games last season. He totaled 103 tackles, 12 passes defensed, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, garnering All-NFC honors from the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Originally selected by Buffalo with the eighth overall pick in the 2006 draft, Whitner has started 113 of his 116 career games. He has totaled 782 tackles, 46 passes defensed, 10 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, two defensive touchdowns and 1.5 sacks.
Whitner spent five seasons (2006-10) with the Bills before signing as an unrestricted free agent with San Francisco, where he played three years (2011-13). Whitner helped the 49ers advance to the NFC Championship game all three seasons, including a trip to Super Bowl XLVII.
With the Buckeyes, Whitner started 18 of 35 games, registering 164 tackles, nine passes defensed, five interceptions, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one blocked punt returned for a touchdown. During his final season as a junior, he helped Ohio State finish fifth in the nation in total defense.