When the Browns signed linebacker Karlos Dansby one year ago, the franchise knew it was getting a fearless leader who wouldn't be scared to set teammates straight.
What the club didn't realize was that Dansby's sphere of influence goes beyond the locker room in Berea.
Two weeks ago, Dansby saw on ESPN's Bottom Line that the Miami Dolphins had released defensive lineman Randy Starks. Instantly, he felt compelled to call Browns general manager Ray Farmer.
"I told Ray, 'I don't know if Randy's name is going to come up in the conversation, but if it does, I'm telling you he's our type of guy,'" Dansby said in an interview Tuesday with ClevelandBrowns.com.
The phone conversations didn't just stop there, though.
Dansby called Starks directly, gushing to his former teammate about coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil's defensive system, how the culture in Cleveland has changed, how Starks legitimately could become that one versatile piece on the defensive line Cleveland missed in 2014.
The pitch worked.
Starks signed a two-year deal with the Browns on Monday to bolster the Browns' defensive line. Starks cited Dansby’s message as a reason he considered Cleveland to be the most attractive destination.
"I know what Randy can bring to the table, and I know what we we're looking for," Dansby said. "I told him, 'Bro, we need your services.' I know that we needed a lineman that could play every position within the defense – and he fit the bill. He's been doing this his whole career.
"He's a hard worker and he's a leader. He's just the perfect fit for what we are trying to do and the direction we're going."
Back in 2010, Dansby arrived in Miami as key free agent acquisition and quickly helped restored the Dolphins defense into the upper echelon category alongside Starks. The Dolphins ranked sixth in the NFL in defense and fourth in yards-per-carry allowed (3.6).
The scheme in Cleveland is different from Miami, but last season's defensive dexterity was the biggest takeaway from a 7-9 campaign. The building blocks for success jump off the roster page. The secondary boasts three Pro Bowlers, Dansby's linebacking unit can constantly make game-changing momentum plays and Paul Kruger proved he's still a sack machine.
But the element that was missing was consistently shutting down opposing running backs. There's no denying the fact that the Browns ranked 32nd in total rushing yards allowed. And a chunk of the issues started at the line of scrimmage.
Starks has posted impressive sack numbers for a defensive lineman with four straight four-sack seasons. But Dansby said Starks' bread and butter is the nastiness to his approach in limiting running backs, a method that became contagious with the Dolphins.
"Randy loves to stop the run," Dansby said. "That's what he hangs his hat on. That was year-in and year-out. He was a stickler. He hates giving up rushing yards. You've got to have that kind of attitude in order to stop the run.
"Randy's a straight-up animal, man. When you talk to him, he seems real calm and cool. But once we get in between the white lines, he's a different person. And I know that's what we need up front. Not only is he going to show some of the guys the way, just his presence is huge."
Dansby ended the phone conversation with Starks by letting him know he thinks Cleveland is just getting started. As Dansby reminded reporters in December, there were pundits in 2014 who predicted the Browns to go 1-15.
There's no denying the franchise waned in a winless December. But on the same hand, there's no denying Cleveland's defense had the team in playoff contention at Thanksgiving.
"You gotta remember nobody in this whole building ever played in this defense before," Dansby said. "We had a learning curve last year and still showed results. This next year with this scheme, I think we'll be 10 times better. A lot of plays that weren't getting made are going to get made."