- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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With one move Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens alleviated concern over the rebuilding of their defense and caused opposing quarterbacks to worry a little more.
Baltimore has suddenly gone from the Super Bowl team that lost five defensive starters to a defense that has one of the best pass-rush tandems in the league with Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. Since entering the league as a fourth-round draft choice out of Louisville in 2006, Dumervil has produced 63.5 sacks (tied for seventh-most in the NFL over that time) and 17 forced fumbles. Suggs' 54 sacks rank 13th among all defensive players over that same time, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
A defensive end in Denver's 4-3 defense the past two seasons, Dumervil will go back to being a 3-4 outside linebacker like he was in 2009 , when he recorded a league-best 17 sacks. His linebackers coach in 2009 and defensive coordinator in 2010 in Denver was Don "Wink" Martindale, who is the Ravens' inside linebackers coach.
This is a vital signing for the Ravens, but don't think this was part of Baltimore's master plan this offseason. The Ravens stumbled into getting Dumervil after his agent failed to fax in paperwork in time, which would have reduced his salary and kept him with the Broncos. Taking advantage of an unlikely mistake involving the Broncos -- like Rahim Moore misplaying Joe Flacco's last-minute touchdown bomb in the AFC divisional playoff game -- has become a trend for Baltimore.
For all the things that have gone wrong recently, the latest being the season opener on the road, the Ravens made out quite well with Dumervil. Not only did the Ravens upgrade from Paul Kruger, they paid less for Dumervil. The Browns are paying Kruger $40.5 million over five years, including $20 million guaranteed. The Ravens got Dumervil for $35 million over five years, including $12 million guaranteed.
While there is tremendous fanfare surrounding the addition of Dumervil, it's wrong to suggest the Ravens have a better defense right now than they did last season. Baltimore still has major holes at inside linebacker and free safety (and that's if you consider James Ihedigbo the starting strong safety). Plus, Dumervil is an average run defender at best because he's undersized (5-foot-11, 260 pounds) and often gets swallowed up by massive blockers.
What Dumervil provides is another quarterback-hitting threat. The Ravens haven't had this big of a one-two punch in terms of edge pass-rushers since 2003, when Suggs and Peter Boulware combined for 20.5 sacks.
Like the Ravens did with Kruger, they could use Courtney Upshaw on early downs and save Dumervil for passing situations, when he's at his best. Dumervil, 29, is a drive stopper with 20 of his sacks over the past five years coming on third down, which is tied for seventh-most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And the Ravens are going to need to get more pressure on the quarterback after losing the interceptions leader (Cary Williams) and both starting safeties (Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard) from last season's Super Bowl team.
This also extends an unusual trend for the Ravens. This is second time after winning the Super Bowl that the Ravens signed a player named Elvis. Baltimore had better hope Dumervil turns out to be better than Grbac.
11hEric D. Williams