Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is set to become a free agent next week, but the fifth-year linebacker made clear in an interview with the NFL Network on Wednesday where he'd like to be playing next season.
"I want to be home in Baltimore," Ellerbe said. "That's all I know. I know the defense. I fit well in the scheme. I know the coaches ... I love the area."
Now that the Ravens have inked quarterback Joe Flacco for the long haul, they can turn their attention to their other pending free agents. Ellerbe, a North Carolina native who was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2009 and evolved into a starting inside linebacker this season, figures to be among their primary targets.
With the retirement of Ray Lewis and with Jameel McClain's status up in the air as he recovers from a neck/spinal cord injury, inside linebacker figures to be a major area of concern for the Ravens. Bringing back Ellerbe, who was the Ravens' best defensive player this season when healthy, would certainly help.
But he won't be cheap, and the Ravens don't have a lot of cash on hand to spend, although Flacco's new $120 million deal is cap-friendly this season.
The Ravens signed McClain to a three-year, $10.5 million deal last March after he dipped his toe in the free agency pool. It's possible Ellerbe will look around as well, and as one of the top inside linebackers in free agency, with a Super Bowl ring on his resume, he is likely to draw plenty of interest and a higher price tag than McClain.
Ellerbe's health and work ethic have been issues in the past, but at age 27, he is hitting his prime and is coming off his best season, with a career-high 10 starts. His timing for free agency couldn't be better. The question is whether a team with a lot of money will make an offer the Ravens can't or won't match.
Either way, Ellerbe, 27, is about to become a very rich man.
"It's what I worked for all my life," Ellerbe told NFL Network. "I'm just blessed to be in this position."
When asked whether he was prepared for the possibility of leaving Baltimore, Ellerbe said, "Yeah I am. I'm not looking forward to it, because I feel like Baltimore is home, but it's a business."
"Wherever I go," he added, "I'm gonna give 110 percent and I'm only gonna get better."