Eagles add more depth with 'monster' LB Dannell Ellerbe

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Eagles add more depth with 'monster' LB Dannell Ellerbe

New Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is not your average midseason signing. This is a playmaker with eight years of NFL experience, and a starter for the Super Bowl champion Ravens in 2012.

Ask any player in the Eagles’ locker room who knows Ellerbe or really studies defense, and they’ll tell you the same thing. This is not just any street free agent.

Ellerbe represents a huge upgrade for the Eagles.

“Dominant player from what I remember in Baltimore,” Eagles safety and former teammate Corey Graham said on Monday. “Running through linemen, very physical, very aggressive. Flat-out beast. We used to call him ‘Eller-beast.’

“When he was out there and when he was healthy, he’s a monster.”

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham even went so far as to liken the addition of Ellerbe to the club’s recent trade for Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi.

“It’s the same situation as when we got the running back,” Bradham said. “We’re just adding depth and trying to get stronger as a team as we’re keeping this thing going.”

Unlike Graham, Bradham never played alongside Ellerbe, nor had they so much as met each other before. But Bradham would tell you he “knows” Ellerbe very well from following his career with the Ravens, Dolphins and Saints.

“Linebackers know linebackers,” said Bradham, who added Ellerbe made a “key impact” in Baltimore’s last world championship. “We need him.”

There’s no question the Eagles could use the help at linebacker. Both Bradham and Mychal Kendricks have been spectacular, but depth became an issue after Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending injury.

Of course, if Ellerbe is the solution, why was he a free agent to begin with? Why is he now playing for his fourth NFL team? He turns 32 years old in a matter of weeks and has never earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl or any other notable accolades, so how good can he be?

Ellerbe’s issues are primarily injury-related. He played one game in 2014, six games in 2015 and nine games in 2016.

Most recently, Ellerbe missed time with a broken foot, which he says has been healed for quite awhile.

“I was healthy enough to play going into training camp,” Ellerbe said. “The whole time I’ve just been working out and getting in shape, staying in shape.”

Otherwise, there’s no denying he can contribute if he’s finally 100 percent. Undrafted out of Georgia in 2009, Ellerbe has started 42 NFL games, recording 368 tackles, 10½ sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also has 48 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception in 10 playoff appearances.

“When he’s healthy, he’s very explosive, very smart,” said Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, another former teammate in Baltimore. “He understands defenses very well, and he can be a great playmaker for us.”

Bradham was willing to go out on a limb and predict Ellerbe would be successful for the Eagles.

“He’s going to have an impact,” Bradham said.

“For us following the game for some time, we’ve all seen him play. He’s a physical, hard-nosed linebacker. He has speed. He’s going to be a great addition for us, and he added depth. We’re even deeper now.”

As far as Ellerbe’s role, that is yet to be determined. For the time being, he isn’t locked in at middle or outside linebacker for the Eagles, though he’s primarily played weakside as a pro. He may not play at all initially.

The way Bradham and Kendricks are balling, there’s no need to force Ellerbe into the lineup, either.

And while Ellerbe says he hasn’t played special teams since he was with the Ravens in 2012, he’s ready to assist in whatever phase he’s called upon. There’s no concern about rust, despite not having practiced or seen game action since last December.

“I don’t think I’ve ever sat out this long, but when you’re born to do something, you pick it back up real quick,” Ellerbe said. “It’s like riding a bike.”

The Eagles aren’t just getting a quality linebacker. Based on accounts from his former teammates, Ellerbe is a quality person as well. Smith called Ellerbe a “great addition to the locker room,” while Graham said the newcomer will fit right in.

With the Eagles’ record at 8-1, team chemistry seems almost as important as talent these days. Ellerbe checks off both boxes.

Free-agent additions this time of year typically amount to picking off the top of the trash heap, pure depth signings, or future stashes. It’s not often a team in the Eagles’ position is able to nab a player of this caliber.

Whether Ellerbe is the game-changer his teammates remember or his ability has eroded with time and injuries, one thing is for certain: The Eagles are leaving no stone unturned in 2017. Adding another motivated athlete with a championship pedigree can’t hurt.

Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

We're deep into free agency, the draft is rapidly approaching and the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles are being reshaped into a new team.

Which means it's a perfect time for a Roob's 10 Observations.

1. As the Eagles move on from LeGarrette Blount and reshape the running back position, it’s intriguing to ponder just how good Corey Clement can be. From what I saw last year? I think the kid can be a stud. His touches were limited until late in the season, but how many rookies have had 300 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry and 13 yards per catch? Would you believe three in the last 40 years? A guy named Jesse Clark with the Packers in 1983, a guy named Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007 and a guy named Corey Clement. It’s tough to project, but he can run, he can block, he can catch, he’s got a real flair for making big plays and a terrific knack in the red zone. Can’t wait to see him in an expanded role.

2. As for Blount, you can’t understate his value to the Eagles last year, both as a running back and a leader. For a guy with his resume to come into that locker room and not once complain about his workload – even when he had no carries against the Chiefs – was remarkable. His selfless attitude really resonated with the young guys in the locker room. And I know a lot of fans were upset to see him go, but as incredible as his Super Bowl performance was, you can’t forget that in the seven games leading up to the Super Bowl he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. And he’s 31 years old. If the reported numbers are correct, Blount’s $4.5 million 2018 salary makes him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league. Good for him. I wish him well. He was a huge part of that 2017 team. But it made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back.

3. It’s amazing how much money teams keep throwing at Sam Bradford. He’s got 34 wins in eight seasons, he’s never had a winning record, he’s never made a postseason, and on the rare occasions when he’s been healthy, he’s won only 43 percent of his starts. Oh, and he’s missed 42 games since 2013. “He’s our guy!”

4. Speaks volumes that both Blount and Torrey Smith singled out Duce Staley in their tweets or Instagram posts saying goodbye to Philly after joining new teams. Staley wasn’t even Smith’s position coach, and he still singled him out. Blount wrote: “To my main man Coach Duce Staley – You have impacted my life on and off the field and pushed me to be the best version of me I can be and for that I thank you!” Staley is such a natural leader and such a big part of what the Eagles accomplished in 2017. He’s going to be a head coach one day.

5. The Eagles lost Vinny Curry, but they have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. They lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but they have Zach Ertz. They lost Smith, but they have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. They lost Blount, but they have Jay Ajayi and Clement. They lost Patrick Robinson, but they have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re still stocked at every position where they lost someone. Pretty darn good roster planning.

6. I feel like in the wake of Nick Foles’ brilliant postseason, people are forgetting exactly how good Carson Wentz was before he got hurt. So here’s a list of every quarterback in NFL history with 33 or more touchdown passes and seven or fewer interceptions in a season before his 30th birthday: Carson Wentz.

7. I wonder how much Haloti Ngata has left. He’s 34, he’s coming off a torn biceps, and he’s five years removed from his last Pro Bowl. Beau Allen was quietly a solid backup defensive tackle and played a big role in that D-line rotation the second half of the season after Tim Jernigan hurt his ankle. I don’t mind the signing. Ngata comes cheap and there’s really nothing to lose. But it’s been a while since he’s been a dominant player, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in.

8. If you’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, plan your trip now. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great place to visit any time. But the weekend of Brian Dawkins’ induction is going to be unforgettable. Dawk’s speech is going to be epic.

9. The Philly Special may be the greatest play in Eagles history, but where does the fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion rank? The Eagles trailed with 5½ minutes left and faced a 4th-and-1 inside midfield when Foles converted a short completion to Ertz. If they don’t convert, they lose. That’s gotta be a top-10 all-time play. Maybe top-five.

10. Tight ends with more catches than Ertz in their first five NFL seasons: Kellen Winslow Sr., Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.

Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

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Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

We all know just how good Carson Wentz is. Heck, the entire NFL knows just how good Wentz is after the Eagles' QB put together a remarkable season with 3,296 passing yards and 33 TD tosses … in just 13 games.

But we and the entire league also know what that means: Wentz is going to get a lot more zeros added to his paycheck soon.

Wideout Torrey Smith, recently traded by the Eagles to the Panthers, knows full well what Wentz's worth is and isn't shy to talk about it, as he did at his charity basketball event in Maryland Saturday evening.

"When Carson's time comes, they're going to need a Brinks truck the size of this arena," Smith, who caught 33 balls for 692 yards and two TDs from Wentz last season, told ESPN's Jamison Hensley while noting the Eagles are taking full advantage of Wentz's discounted rookie deal right now.

Wentz is in the middle of a four-year, $26.6 million deal signed after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016. The deal expires after the 2019 season, but obviously, Howie Roseman and crew know this all is looming. And they also know recent QB contract numbers have continued to skyrocket.

San Francisco recently made Jimmy Garrapollo, he of seven career starts but also of five straight wins to end last season after his trade from New England, the richest QB in league history with a five-year, $137.5 million deal. Detroit gave Matthew Stafford a five-year, $135 million deal prior to last season, a few months after Oakland gave Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension. Those three are the top-paid QBs in the league.

Long story short: With the way Wentz has performed with 7,049 passing yards and 49 TDs in 29 career starts, he's going to get paid.

And Roseman's acts of salary cap magic are going to have to continue because Wentz is going to get paid sooner than later, and the whole league knows it.