It would be easy to call this thing a "wash" as of now. I mean it's like we traded Ward for Whitner, D. Jackson for Dansby, and signed a special teamer...whoopee. Are we better off now though than we were 6 mos. ago? Yes.
It's quite clear that Pettine's defense needs quality veterans at LB and S to make line calls and adjustments, and it's quite probable that he did not feel comfortable with Ward and D.J. making these calls. Enter two hard-hitting veterans from winning teams known for their durability and leadership. The money given these guys is really not an issue. The market determined their values, and the actual cap hits(not the yearly avg. of the contract), seem quite reasonable. The Browns obviously were in hot pursuit of these two as contracts were offered seemingly within minutes of the kickoff of free agency.
More players known for being special teams demons will probably be added as well if there is any truth to the Parcells as consultant rumors. Parcells often advocated special teams as a priority for teams with new coaches/systems saying that it could take a year or two to fully learn a new offense or defense, but the special teams battle can be dramatically improved immediately by just getting better players.
Several players from last years team are finding new homes including a couple O-lineman and a couple of quarterbacks. There are many holes now to fill such as QB, RB, WR, G, and well there are more as well but other than the Seahawks every team has 7 or 8 holes to fill. Even the AFC champs have been actively filling needs through free agency.
There is still a ton of money to spend and 10 draft picks figure to be arriving in C-town soon so optimism can be had at this point.