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Potential New York Jets Free Agent: Dannell Ellerbe

By Alan Schechter
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Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (59) celebrates on his knees after winning Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

As we look ahead to the free agency period, we look into the positions that the Jets need to upgrade. One that is at, or near, the top of the list, is linebacker. The current group is old, and they need to get better. We have talked about the need for an outside linebacker, the desperate one at that. But, the need is there for an inside linebacker as well, as Bart Scott has one foot out the door too.

What about Dannell Ellerbe? Well, he is very likely to be available on the open market. The Ravens have a lot of money that they need to spend. Joe Flacco is going to ask for, deserve, and likely get, a boat load of cash. Coming off the run he just finished, this will come as no surprise to anyone. Add that to the fact that Ed Reed is a free agent, and Ellerbe could likely be a casualty. So, what did Ellerbe bring to the table last year?

Dannell Ellerbe had his best year for the Super Bowl Champs, with 92 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Our counterpart, Bart Scott, for comparison, finished with 60 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an INT. Clearly, Ellerbe is a statistical upgrade.

Ellerbe’s overall PFF grade was 4.8, significantly besting Bart Scott’s 1.1. His pass rush grade was also far better than Scott’s, 4.5 to 1.5. Dannell was tough against the run as well with a grade of 6.2, compared to Bart Scott’s 0.6.

His biggest problem was in pass coverage. Ellerbe finished the year with a -5.0 grade in pass coverage, while Bart Scott actually finished higher with a -0.1. With the linebackers having difficulty in pass coverage, we would have to think about someone that graded out as a liability in that area.

Remember, the Jets do have young Demario Davis, who although he played only 301 snaps, graded out almost as well as Bart did against the pass with a -0.6. There is something to be said for running with your young players, and letting them grow into their role. A decent argument, could, and should be made for allowing Demario to grow into the starting role in 2013. Let’s look at some more stats on the next page.

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (59) celebrates winning Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a look at some of the more unique stats provided by our friends at Pro Football Focus.

One of their unique stats is “Tackling Efficiency”, which calculates a figure based on on the number of tackles attempted per the number of tackles missed.  Time to compare.

Dannell Ellerbe’s tackle efficiency against the run was 47.0, while Bart Scott’s was 5.8. The passing tackle efficiency is hard to compare, because Scott being so slow, only attempted 6 tackles on pass plays. He didn’t miss any, but obviously that is a small percentage. Overall, Ellerbe’s rating was a 13.8 and Scott’s was a 6.6.

They also have a stat called “Cover Snaps per Reception”. Here, they take a look at how often a player is the primary defender in coverage, vs how many receptions he allows. Bart Scott’s number of snaps is too low to consider, but Ellerbe? He allowed a reception every 8.2 times he was primary in coverage, which is quite low. The league best at the position was 18.0, to give you a frame of reference.  Demario Davis, in his limited reps, posted a 12.2 in this category.

Under his contract with the Ravens, his average salary per year was $1,927,000 (per www.overthecap.com).  This isn’t a ton of money, but at 27 years old, coming off his breakout year, he will be looking for a pay raise.  It could take in the neighborhood of $3,000,000 to earn his services.

Is that cost prohibitive?  Probably not.  But it’s not chump change either.  It might take a little bit of creativity, due to the cap situation, with signing bonuses and incentives to make it financially worthwhile.

So, the bottom line for me is this: would Ellerbe be a bad signing?  No, as he clearly has talent.  But, the telling part for me is that he lacks a little bit in his play in pass coverage.  His grades just aren’t that good in that category, and the Jets would be better served turning the reps over to Demario Davis, and letting him show us what he can do as the starter.

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