Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was one of the brightest stars on the Baltimore Ravens defense this year and the difference between how well the unit did with Ray Lewis versus without him wan’t a real drop-off thanks to Ellerbe. He could have been in line to take over for the retiring Lewis is he were not a free agent, and now the Ravens must work frantically to free up enough cap space to re-sign him, or else, go into 2013 with a vastly depleted linebacking unit.
Ellerbe finished second on the team in tackles (92), despite missing three regular season games, and is just 27 years old. He also notched 4.5 sacks and forced two fumbles while leading Pro Football Focus’s rankings in Pass Rushing Productivity amongst inside linebackers during the season.
Ellerbe is probably the team’s top priority after Joe Flacco.