Roughly an hour after losing outside linebacker Paul Kruger on Tuesday, the Ravens sustained their biggest free-agent loss of the offseason with inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe reaching an agreement with the Miami Dolphins.
Deemed their top priority after quarterback Joe Flacco signed a six-year contract earlier this month, Ellerbe remained hopeful earlier in the day Tuesday that the sides would come to an agreement, but the 4 p.m. deadline passed without the Ravens inking the 27-year-old to a contract. According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, the deal is worth $35 million over five years.
Ellerbe told WNST.net that the Ravens’ best offer was only $4.5 million per season and roughly half the guaranteed money the Dolphins awarded him.
Filling in for an injured Ray Lewis for a large portion of the season, Ellerbe made seven starts and played in 13 games, collecting 92 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks. The inside linebacker missed three games in early December due to an ankle injury but rebounded to serve as arguably the Ravens’ best defensive player en route to their Super Bowl XLVII win.
Originally an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2009, Ellerbe missed 10 games over the last two seasons as his durability has come into question throughout his career. The talented linebacker also found himself in coach John Harbaugh’s doghouse earlier in his career as his conditioning and commitment to football came into question.
However, Ellerbe appeared to have arrived in his fourth NFL season as he began the season playing in the nickel package before stepping into a starting role when Lewis sustained a torn right triceps on Oct. 14.
The loss of Ellerbe leaves a major void at inside linebacker as the Ravens are already facing life without the retiring Ray Lewis in the middle of the defense. The organization will hope for the best with Jameel McClain — who suffered a season-ending spinal cord contusion in December — while also looking to free agency and the draft to find an impact player at the position. Former practice-squad member Josh Bynes will also be counted on to fill a larger role within the defense.
After signing Ellerbe on Tuesday afternoon, the Dolphins released veteran inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who could be a viable short-term option for the Ravens at a reasonable cost.
WNST.net’s Ryan Chell contributed to this report.