MIAMI — When the NFL’s free agency period opened on Tuesday, Dannell Ellerbe expected to return to the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Since the 34-31 victory over San Francisco in New Orleans, the former Richmond Senior standout was sounding like a player who wanted to fill the void left when future Hall of Fame member Ray Lewis retired. Ellerbe talked about loving the city, the fans and the coaching staff.
After signing quarterback Joe Flacco to a new deal, Baltimore’s front office said retaining Ellerbe was priority one. It appeared as if it was going to be a slam dunk for No. 59 to return to roam the field at M&T Bank Stadium.
When the two parties met Tuesday morning things started to go sour.
“I told my agent I didn’t want to know everything, just the conclusion of what was going on,” Ellerbe said. “He told me the Ravens were close to the bottom of what couple of other teams were offering.”
After spending four years with Baltimore, Ellerbe’s future home was up in the air.
“I talked about a hometown discount, but I couldn’t do it for what they were offering me,” Ellerbe said. “It was more than even a wholesale discount. It was drastically less than what was out there.”
It didn’t take long for another team — the Miami Dolphins — to come to an agreement with Ellerbe. The Dolphins offered Ellerbe a 5-year, $35 million contract.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Ellerbe received a $7 million bonus and guaranteed base salary of $1 million for the upcoming season and $6 million in 2014. In addition, he has annual $25,000 workout bonuses built into the contract.
The third year of the deal becomes a little trickier with $3 million of his $8.425 base salary being guaranteed for injury only, however, the remaining amount can be converted to fully guaranteed. The final two years are nonguaranteed.
Ellerbe knew the time would come when he would be rewarded “for all my hard work.” He still believes many teams made a mistake of not drafting him out of Georgia.
“I sprained my MCL and missed a couple of games, but I was still making plays,” Ellerbe said. “I have been the same player and people are starting to recognize it now.”
The Dolphins have been very active in the free agency this week. In addition to signing Ellerbe, Miami has inked wide receiver Mike Wallace, tight end Dustin Keller and linebacker Philip Wheeler.
“I see a team getting better and doing the things they need to do,” Ellerbe said. “The defense is young and the defensive line is good which will help me. They were No. 1 in red zone defense last year and the Ravens were No. 2. They are up and coming.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.