The Philadelphia Eagles recently added more depth at linebacker by signing veteran free agent Dannell Ellerbe.
So who is Ellerbe and what exactly can he provide to this Eagles team? I asked some people who are familiar with him in order to get a better sense. Here we’ll go over the Saints, Dolphins, and Ravens perspectives of Ellerbe.
SAINTS DANNELL ELLERBE
Answers via John Hendrix of Canal Street Chronicles
1 - Can you recap his time with the Saints?
The biggest way to summarize Dannell Ellerbe's time with the Saints is when he was on the field, he was a pretty strong presence. However, the availability was a big problem, as Ellerbe appeared in just 15 of 32 games for the Saints from 2015-2016. He had some stellar performances when he played, particularly in pass rushing. The Saints sent Kenny Stills to acquire him and a 2015 3rd Round Pick (P.J. Williams). So, a few years later I guess you could say the Dolphins might have got the better end of that deal, but Williams has been playing very strong lately after seeing some of the bench this season.
2 - What was the reaction when New Orleans cut him? It wasn't surprising.
He just couldn't stay healthy. Opening 2017 on the PUP list wasn't something the Saints wanted to see, and fans passed their judgement on him long before. It was almost a running joke with Ellerbe not being at practice or being on the injury report. It's unfortunate, but they did what they had to do. Releasing him with an injury settlement was the smartest way to go.
3 - What are his strengths?
His biggest contribution will be as a pass rusher, and the 4-3 defense of the Eagles suits him perfectly. He had a four-game tear for the Saints in 2016, notching 4.0 sacks in four straight games. For film's sake, the best thing I'd tell anyone is to watch the Thursday Night Football game between the Panthers and Saints. That's the Dannell Ellerbe everyone expected.
4 - What are his weaknesses?
Durability is an obvious concern for a nearly 32-year-old linebacker who has a big injury history. Ellerbe hasn't been on a football field for a while now, so it's tough to say what he can or can't do right now.
5 - The Eagles are likely going to use Ellerbe as a role player. To what extent do you think that’s a suitable role for him?
At this point of his career, that's the best way to go. The Eagles won't get any special teams work out of Ellerbe, so their best way to go is using him as a situational pass rusher or dropping him in coverage. He's a veteran who has a Super Bowl ring, so there's obviously usefulness for him in the locker room too.
6 - Anything to know about him off the field?
Ellerbe definitely does some community work off the field, so there's a lot to like about a guy who does that. He's an avid Georgia Bulldogs supporter naturally, and you won't find him tweeting much on social media.
DOLPHINS DANNELL ELLERBE
Answers via Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider
1 - Can you sum his time with the Dolphins?
Ellerbe came to the Dolphins with such high expectation, but was never able to live up to them. At the time of his signing with the Dolphins in 2013, I wrote, "Ellerbe comes to Miami as the first free agent signing that clearly put the NFL on notice that this was going to be a busy offseason for Miami." He assumed the starting role for 2013, tallying 101 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and two fumbles as the team's middle linebacker that year. He was moved to strong side linebacker for 2014, but was injured (hip) in the first game of the season and placed on injured reserve. He was then traded before the 2015 season, in large part because his cap number was going to become too high.
Basically, the summation of Ellerbe is fairly simple - he was a solid linebacker at times that was way overpaid for what the Dolphins were going to get from him.
2 - What are his strengths?
In that same article, I wrote, "Ellerbe is solid against the run, the strength of the Dolphins' defense. In front of him, the duo of Paul Soliai and Randy Starks will free him up to pursue opposing running backs. Ellerbe's absolute strength is pass rushing, and with Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick, Dion Jordan, Olivier Vernon, and Derrick Shelby to go along with Ellerbe, the Dolphins should be able to pressure quarterbacks from multiple places and with great success." I think that is probably about right for what you can expect from him. He will give you some great pass rushing moments - maybe not tally up a bunch of sacks, but he is an effective blitzing linebacker - and he will be solid against the run, but he is not going to be a dominant linebacker in any area.
3 - What are his weaknesses?
Injury issues have plagued him, including that lost 2014 season. He is not as fast as he once was, nearing his 32nd birthday in a couple of weeks. If you are looking for just some solid play out of a depth type of linebacker, Ellerbe can be that. If you are looking for a guy to come in and play lights out football, he will disappoint.
RAVENS DANNELL ELLERBE
Answers by Kyle Barber of Baltimore Beatdown
1 - Can you recap his time with the Ravens?
Dannell was another undrafted free agent linebacker the Ravens sign and then groom into a starting caliber player, e.g. (Bart Scott, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Zachary Orr). He was an on-again off-again starter, but it wasn't due to bad play; the Ravens only wanted to rotate both McClain and Ellerbe into their roles, getting them starting reps to prepare for the future, while receiving success in the present.
2 - What are his strengths?
During his time with the Ravens, he never really had a weakness. He was skilled against in the run when tailbacks broke through the gaps, but could also defend tight ends in coverage. Both Ellerbe and McClain were leaned on in pass coverage, as Ray was showing signs of age near the end. Ellerbe was great in the Ravens 3-4 system as a pass-rushing linebacker; certainly during his contract season of 2012-2013. He racked up 4.5 sacks that year, whereas the first three seasons he only produced a single sack.
3 - What are his weaknesses?
Dannell wasn't a star in coverage. He made enough plays to be happy about, but he wasn't a star for the Ravens in terms of pass defense. Also, not a turnover machine. Didn't gamble, and didn't make impressive, highlight plays. During four years with the Baltimore Ravens, Dannell intercepted only one pass, forced one fumble and recovered only one fumble.
In all, Ellerbe was a consistent player. He was starter quality, but never a top-five player. He could be a low-end #1 ILB, or a high-end #2 ILB.