Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe parlayed Super Bowl success into a big payday, agreeing to a $35 million, five-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, a person with knowledge of the contract said Tuesday.
The person confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no deal had been announced.
Ellerbe, 27, had a career-high 4 1/2 sacks last year for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. He started seven games and established career highs in tackles (89, second on the team) and solo tackles (66). He missed three games with an ankle injury.
With dreadlocks flying, Ellerbe proved to be a huge presence in the middle of the Baltimore defence, even after middle linebacker Ray Lewis returned from a torn triceps.
Ellerbe had eight solo tackles in the Ravens' opening playoff win over Indianapolis, and followed with nine solo tackles against Denver. He had five tackles and his first career post-season interception in Baltimore's victory over New England in the AFC title game.
With Lewis retiring, the Ravens hoped to sign Ellerbe to a long-term deal. But he proved to be too expensive for the Super Bowl champions, who faced tough salary-cap decisions.
Ellerbe signed as a rookie free agent out of Georgia in 2009 and has 14 career starts in four NFL seasons. He gives the Dolphins more youth at the position, leaving the status of nine-year veteran Karlos Dansby in doubt.
Miami was expected to be active in free agency after a fourth consecutive losing season, including a 7-9 record in 2012.