Raiders Add Veteran Presence to Rickety Defensive Front with Greg Ellis

A.J. DeMelloCorrespondent IJune 16, 2009

IRVING, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants is sacked by Greg Ellis #98 of the Dallas Cowboys on October 16, 2005 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Giants 16-13 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

About two weeks ago, I made the case for the Raiders to sign Greg Ellis. He has reportedly agreed to a three year deal with the Raiders.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but more than likely it's a one-year deal with the Raiders ready to pull the trigger like they did with Kalimba Edwards if unsatisfied.

Only seven players in the NFL have more sacks than Ellis (42) over the past five seasons. Those players are none other than Jared Allen (57.5), DeMarcus Ware (53.5), Robert Mathis (50.5), John Abraham (50.5), Aaron Kampman (48), Joey Porter (47.5), and Dwight Freeney (46.5).

The only questions to ponder would be the same to last year's Greg Spires, who ended up cut last year. Can he be a veteran presence and/or a leader? Does he have anything left?

The good news here is whether or not Ellis produces, he'll push the younger guys, offer up some advice and provide some much-needed mentorship which he has been known to do in Dallas.

Ellis proved people wrong two years ago who thought he was done, as he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year generating 12.5 sacks (in 13 games) on his way to his first Pro Bowl. Not even at his original position.

Ellis right now rounds out the top ten regarding the NFL's best pass rushers. Can he keep it up though? His only weakness right now is his age (turns 34 in August), since the body obviously will take a harsher toll at this point in his career.

However, the Raiders still have Derrick Burgess. They drafted high-motor ends in Matt Shaughnessy and Stryker Sulak to help the pass rush, along with Slade Norris who they are trying at the SAM linebacker position.

This move could be what sends Derrick Burgess packing or traded. Especially with the notion that he is primarily a pass rusher, which the Raiders could use up and coming second-year end Trevor Scott for who had 5 sacks in limited playing time last year.

The Raiders run a 4-3 scheme, so it would be wise to assume Ellis will probably make his return to defensive end. The Raiders may experiment though, and see where he best fits in since there is no clear cut starter at the SAM linebacker position which has Jon Alston and Slade Norris battling for.

This isn't only a sign that Burgess may not be a Raider for long, but that the Raiders are disappointed with Jay Richardson's progress ever since he was drafted in 2007. It's very likely their hopes were for him to be a big guy who could hold ground against the run while still being able to get after the quarterback.

Now the Raiders have Greg Ellis, who is that mold. Richardson will have to put on a really strong showing in training camp if he wants to stick around or receive exceptional playing time being that he has struggled with his pass-rushing skills and looks to enter his third season as a rotational player unless proven otherwise.

With the Raiders not changing much on their defensive line except drafting a few tweener players, this move was long awaited with how poor their run defense has been.

If Ellis can get back to form and produce like the Raiders hope, it will give them a complete defensive end who can stay on the field. Scott, Burgess, and Richardson are one-dimensional. It remains to be seen if Sulak and Shaughnessy are as well.

Judging from this recent move, the latter may be the wise choice.


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