Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear last week that veteran outside linebacker Greg Ellis had likely played his last game with the club. And today Jones made it official, releasing one of the most respected (and highly productive) players on the team.
Ellis has spent the past four offseasons trying to talk his way out of town, and he finally succeeded. He has a clause in his contract that guarantees him $1.5 million if he's released by the Cowboys, so now that kicks in. He was set to make a little more than $4 million in '09, so the Cowboys will be able to free up some salary-cap space. They'll need plenty of room as they continue to try to negotiate a long-term contract extension with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
The news Tuesday doesn't come as a surprise, but it would be wrong to sweep Ellis' career in Dallas under the rug and move on. He was taken eighth overall in the 1998 draft, which was remembered as the draft when several teams (including the Cowboys) passed on Randy Moss. Ellis, 33, started 156 games and had 77 career sacks. He made his first trip to the Pro Bowl in '07 when he had 12.5 sacks in 13 games. He was also named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year following that season.
He may have griped during the offseason, but he was the consummate teammate in the locker room. Even as he was complaining about the Cowboys drafting Anthony Spencer to play outside linebacker, he was tutoring the young player at Valley Ranch. Ellis was reluctant to make the move from defensive end to linebacker under Bill Parcells, but it ended up rejuvenating his career. Last season he was used primarily as a pass-rush specialist. But he still managed eight sacks despite his lack of playing time.
Win or lose, he was always one of the guys sticking around to talk to reporters after games. It's likely that he could play at least two more seasons in the league, so let's discuss where he'll end up.
He played college football at North Carolina, and that's why I think he'd love to end up with the Panthers. But I think both the Eagles and Redskins will have some interest in Ellis. The Redskins are already a little long in the tooth along the defensive line, so Ellis might be a better fit for the Eagles. He never played on a team in Dallas that won a playoff game, and I think Ellis would relish the opportunity to finally make that happen.
I think he could really help a team that's already knocking on the door. The Giants and Eagles both fit the bill. We'll keep you posted on what happens.