First, the Miami Dolphins hit the bullseye when they announced they had a deal in place with speedy wideout Mike Wallace. It was a huge signing for the Dolphins, who have struggled to land the big fish once they had it on their line. It was a great moment for general manager Jeff Ireland, but the excitement of the moment may have impaired his judgement and suddenly the Dolphins were paying Dannell Ellerbe $7 million a year for the next five years.
Ellerbe played well with the Baltimore Ravens last season, especially around the end of the season and throughout the playoffs. He was very impressive at times, but at no point did he appear to be worth a $35 million-dollar contract. At the moment, the NFL Network is saying that the Ravens saw Ellerbe as a top priority, but were only planning to pay him around $5 million a year. That is a $10 million difference and the Ravens could not, or would not, go that far for a relatively unknown commodity.
Sure, Ellerbe played very well last season, but this type of money is usually reserved for the absolute top-tier linebackers, especially when you are talking about a guy who plays inside. It is hard to understand what possessed the Dolphins to commit so much to an inside linebacker when they already had a solid starter in that position, Karlos Dansby, who they now have to release.
Dansby posted career highs in tackles, both solo and assisted, in 2012, as well as in passes defended. He was solid against the run and was developing nicely when dropping back into coverage. At 31, his age may have been a factor, but his play on the field last season showed signs of further development. He was not a player the Dolphins had to break the bank to replace.
The thing is, the Dolphins had money to play with this off-season and they are certainly throwing it around. The exact numbers of the Wallace deal have not yet been released, but if Ellerbe’s contract is any indication, he will not be worrying about money for a very long time.
It is good to see the Dolphins landing a couple of players that can make a difference, but the amount they are paying for them is a bit scary. The Dolphins came into this afternoon in prime position to build a team of the future, but in order to construct a roster that will last, they need to be smart with the money. Paying Ellerbe $35 million for five years is not an encouraging sign, but there is still plenty of free agency left and what the Dolphins do next will be just as important as what they have already done.