David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
We continue to look at some of the potential free agent targets for the Cincinnati Bengals, based on need and affordability.
On Saturday, Josh Kirkendall did a piece on running back Chris Ivory potentially being a free agent target of the Cincinnati Bengals. Kirkendall based his theory on the Bengals possibly being interested because of the Bengals' frugal ways in free agency and the need at running back. As Josh pointed out, usually the Bengals target middle-tier free agents and/or star players that have been discarded because of age or injury history.
Aside from running back, one could argue that linebacker is the team's biggest need this offseason. With Manny Lawson, Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard all set to hit free agency, the team needs to find a solution at two starting positions in the group. It's unclear which two spots will need to be filled, but it looks as if Vontaze Burfict will move to his natural position in the middle and replace Maualuga. If this occurs,
Still, Burfict could stick on the outside where he played solid football last season and the Bengals would still need to fill the middle and strong side spots. If that's the case, the Ravens have a linebacker that could fit the Bengals defense well--Dannell Ellerbe.
Ellerbe has emerged as a solid defensive player over the past few years and is only 27 years old. In fact, Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger (and fellow impending free agent) said that Ellerbe would be a "perfect" replacement for Ray Lewis' departure. The problem for the Ravens is that quarterback Joe Flacco's contract extension could handcuff the team from signing players like Ellerbe and Kruger. Though Ellerbe wants to stay in Baltimore, he might not get his wish because of the salary cap situation there.
Aside from being a Ravens linebacker who played his college ball at Georgia (both likely being attractive qualities to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis), Ellerbe displays linebacker traits that could also make him be a decent fit at the outside spots. He plays the pass pretty well and can pressure the passer, evidenced by his 4.5 sacks last year. Additionally, Ellerbe had 92 total tackles and two forced fumbles in 2012 to complete a solid campaign where he rotated in and out of the lineup throughout the year.
Though he may not be the ideal outside linebacker on the surface, Ellerbe played in a 3-4 defense in Baltimore, requiring him to do a number of duties. Couple that with the fact that the Bengals often have players line up in positions that aren't necessarily their natural spot and we could have a good match here. Hey, if it worked for the rookie Burfict last season, it could for Ellerbe.
If the Bengals end up leaving Burfict at the weakside spot, Ellerbe would be an ideal fit in the middle. Even if the plan is to move Burfict to the middle, Ellerbe could be a solid fit on the outside as well. He'll be asking for decent money, but its' not likely that it would be anything outrageous and he could be an upgrade on an already stout Bengals defense.