(WGR 550) -- Entering the off-season with a new Team President, a new head coach and an entirely new direction, the Buffalo Bills have a lot of holes to fill between now and the start of training camp.
Having a need for starters in some areas and depth in others, the Bills have to lock up a lot of different positions by the time training camp gets started in late July.
Going in their favor, the Bills rolled over $9.8 million from 2012 to 2013 according to ProFootballTalk.com, meaning they could use that money to go after someone more than a second-tier free agent.
That player could come on the defensive side of the ball, which is where we start our 'Possible Bills Targets' series for the third straight year.
Here is the case both for, and against, Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
The Case For Dannell Ellerbe
There is little doubt that the Buffalo Bills need a three-down, scheme versatile linebacker to add to their defense. After releasing Nick Barnett, the Bills are left very thin at the position. While Barnett was an average defender for Buffalo in 2012, he also played more snaps than anyone at the position by a very wide margin.
Kelvin Sheppard has not lived up to the expectations the previous coaching staff had for him, Nigel Bradham is still young in to his career and they can't seem to find a home for Arthur Moats. All of this plays in to the Bills needing a linebacker that can stop the bleeding so to speak.
Coming up from nothing, the former undrafted free agent Ellerbee not only made the team but became a key contributor in his very first season with Baltimore. He appeared in 13 games, starting three of them and racked up 41 tackles along the way.
It wasn't until 2012, though that Ellerbe really became a staple of the Ravens defense. Although he started in only seven games this past season, the linebacker had 92 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. But it was his performance in this past run to the Super Bowl that really made him stand out.
Ellerbe fought his way through an ankle injury and stepped up for the injured Jameel McClain and the aging Ray Lewis. In those four playoff games, he had 32 total tackles and an interception to help the Ravens to their Super Bowl win.
Not only is his most recent postseason performance rather enticing, but so is his potential ability to fit right in to Mike Pettine's defense right away. The Bills defensive coordinator first started in Baltimore before heading up the New York Jets' defense for the past four seasons. Both teams are well-versed in their multiple front looks, making Ellerbe an ideal fit.
With so many questions on the defensive side of the ball and only six draft picks to address everything, the Bills could cross off a huge need with a big signing like Ellerbe.
The Case Against Dannell Ellerbe
It's really quite simple for the Ellerbe detractors.
One of the hottest names that could hit unrestricted free agency on March 12, Ellerbe could demand quite the annual salary for his efforts. For an upper-tier inside linebacker in the NFL, they can be had for around the $7 million range annually.
Take 49ers defender NaVorro Bowman for instance. His cap hit in 2013 isn't all that daunting because of his re-worked extension, but starting in 2014 he has cap hits of $7.05 million, $7.75 million, $8.9 million and etc. That's quite a commitment to a player.
In the case of Ellerbe, some of his naysayers may point out his lack of starting experience. Even in his most prominent season in 2012, he started only 11 out of a possible 20 games. In his four-year career, playoffs included, Ellerbe has only made 21 total starts.
That could make some teams think twice about entering the Dannell Derby for the amount that other teams may be willing to go.
Will They or Won't They?
If he hits the open market, the Bills need to see just how attainable Ellerbe could be. Having Pettine in house could certainly help, as he could work the angle of feeling right at home in a similar defense. Buffalo also has the room, thanks to the rolled over cap money from 2012, to move for perhaps a more coveted player in free agency. The biggest problem? Baltimore. If he was as important to the team during the playoffs as he looked, then GM Ozzie Newsome will surely do everything in his power to keep Ellerbe in black and purple. If not, I think the Bills will definitely be interested in the 27-year old linebacker that is seemingly entering the prime of his career.