Dolphins sign Dannell Ellerbe, Ravens lose heir to Lewis

Ravens lose the heir to Ray Lewis, Dolphins swipe in on Ellerbe

3/12/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

With the retirement of Ray Lewis leaving a massive hole in the center of the Baltimore Ravens' defense, the team thought that re-signing linebacker Dannell Ellerbe would give them a shot to ease into the post-Lewis era. Hopefully they had Plan B lined up, because less than 24 hours into free agency, Ellerbe was off the market.
Blog Photo - Dolphins sign Dannell Ellerbe, Ravens lose heir to Lewis
The Miami Dolphins locked up Ellerbe on Tuesday with a five-year, $35 million contract. Though he is inconsistent in pass coverage, he is very stout against the run, and should make the Dolphins' strong run defense even stronger. Karlos Dansby is still under contract and was very effective at the middle linebacker position in 2012, so Ellerbe will not be manning the inside of the linebacker core as he was in Baltimore.

The most likely spot for Ellerbe appears to be on the strong side, where Kevin Burnett played last season. The Dolphins could save $3 million dollars by cutting the 30 year old Burnett. Weak side linebacker is also a possibility, where Koa Misi is in the final year of his contract.

The Dolphins had money to spend this offseason, and they're not being shy about flaunting it. They've been the most aggressive team on free agency's opening day, locking up top free agent receiver Mike Wallace, and one of the top linebackers in Ellerbe. They are now rumored to be in heavy pursuit of tight end Jared Cook.

Ellerbe was said to be seeking $6 million annually in free agency, and they Dolphins gave him $7 million. Hopefully they are thinking carefully about where they spend their money, rather than just being aggressive for the sake of it.

As for the team who lost Ellerbe, the Ravens will now be searching for a new linebacker to man the middle of their defense. The team doesn't really have any solid in-house replacement options. They could address the need in the draft, possibly with a player like Kevin Minter or Jonathan Bostic with the 32nd overall pick. Manti Te'o would be a very interesting fit, but I doubt he'll be available at that spot. Top free agent middle linebackers include Brian Urlacher (who is a poor scheme fit), Rey Maualuga, and Tim Dobbins.

Already having lost Paul Kruger to the Browns, the Ravens are struggling to retain free agents as a result of Joe Flacco's massive new contract.

UPDATE: The Dolphins have released Karlos Dansby. It appears that Dannell Ellerbe will end up playing the middle linebacker position in the Dolphins' 4-3 defense after all.

In addition, the St. Louis Rams have signed Jared Cook, which obviously means that the Dolphins are no longer in pursuit of him. With 2012's starting tight end Anthony Fasano leaving to sign with the Chiefs, look for the Dolphins to make a play for a tight end in the draft.
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