The Ravens’ top free-agent priority is going elsewhere.
Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe agreed to a 5-year, deal worth a reported $35 million on the first day of free agency. The Ravens “never really got close,” according to The Sun.
The Ravens now have a growing question mark in the middle of their defense, an area General Manager Ozzie Newsome said he wanted to improve this offseason.
Future Hall of Fame linebacker
There were widespread reports that the Ravens were clearing cap space by signing quarterback
But the Ravens were not able to hammer out a deal with Ellerbe before free agency opened Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Ellerbe, 27, emerged as one of the Ravens’ top defenders last season.
Despite battling nagging knee, ankle and thumb injuries throughout the year, he still played in 13 regular-season games and started in seven, making 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Ellerbe particularly showed his value in the postseason, where he made 32 tackles in four games and intercepted New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC championship.
He led the Ravens with nine tackles in their Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers, and chased down running back Frank Gore on the 49ers’ final drive, allowing the Ravens to make their final goal-line stand.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder grew into an all-around, three-down linebacker in Baltimore after being an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2009. But he also consistently battled injuries and had some maturing to do early in his career.
Ellerbe became a full-time starter for the first time since 2009 last season when Lewis went down with a triceps injury.
The Ravens may show more interest in the market for an inside linebacker or two.
The free-agent market at inside linebacker is not considered to be particularly strong, with a couple names being Rey Maualuga of the Bengals and D.J. Williams of the Broncos. It is a strong position in the draft with a few options in the first couple rounds, including Georgia’s Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o.
Ravens Genearl Manager Ozzie Newsome has seen his linebackers bolt for big deals elsewhere, from Jarret Johnson (San Diego), Bart Scott (New York Jets), Adalius Thomas (New England), Ed Hartwell (Atlanta), and Jamie Sharper (Houston). They've eventually replaced all of them.
Still, Ellerbe's teammates expressed their disappointment that he couldn't stay.