Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Monday, March 25, 2013
Missed opportunity for Dumervil

By Jeffri Chadiha
ESPN.com

Maybe Elvis Dumervil's pride got in the way. Maybe it was as simple as the Denver Broncos failing to make a deal that matched what the Baltimore Ravens gave the Pro Bowl defensive end over the weekend.

There's even the possibility that Dumervil felt he'd finally had enough. Whatever the case surrounding Dumervil's recent decision to sign with Baltimore, this much is true: He just lost his best chance at playing in the Super Bowl next season.

The Broncos are clearly the class of the AFC going into the 2013 season. Even with the recent screw-up that led to the team dumping Dumervil at the last minute for salary-cap considerations -- his paperwork didn't reach the Broncos in time to make his restructured contract valid by the NFL deadline -- Denver was looking increasingly like the runaway conference favorite.

Peyton Manning is still under center and Von Miller is still coming after opposing quarterbacks off the edge. The Broncos snatched wide receiver Wes Welker from the New England Patriots. The final key component would've been working a deal that would've kept Dumervil around a few more seasons.

Elvis Dumervil
Elvis Dumervil's replacement in Denver is more likely to make the Super Bowl than Dumervil is in Baltimore.

It says here that the Broncos will find a way to compensate for that substantial loss. There's already talk of former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney joining the roster, with ex-Atlanta Falcons pass-rusher John Abraham serving as the de facto Plan B. As for Dumervil, it's hard to see him finding greener pastures in his new home. The Ravens won the most recent Super Bowl with a magical run for the ages. They're simply not set up to repeat that feat this fall.

Their spiritual leader, Ray Lewis, is now in retirement. The soul of their secondary, Ed Reed, will be suiting up for the Houston Texans this coming season. Other young talents -- namely linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, and defensive backs Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard -- also have new homes. Overall, the Ravens are looking at only five returning starters from the defense that took the field in their win over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII.

No matter how good Dumervil is, he's not going to make up for that much lost talent. Sure, he will boost a pass rush that also boasts massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and dangerous outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. But the Ravens' defense, when at its best, was never solely about harassing quarterbacks. It was about shutting down the run, creating confusion, flustering teams into mistakes. Now that same unit will be taking a backseat to the offense, as this team officially tries to ride the shoulders of quarterback Joe Flacco to long-term success.

That's not to say the Ravens won't compete, because they've got a great head coach in John Harbaugh and the best general manager in the business in Ozzie Newsome. It's just that they won't be on the same level as Denver.

They won't have as much firepower on offense and they won't have as much talent on defense. They'll be right there with New England and Houston next season, hoping to keep pace with the Broncos.

The only thing that makes sense about Dumervil failing to find a way to stay in Denver is the difference in reported contract offers. The Ravens gave him a five-year deal worth $35 million, while the Broncos could counter with only a three-year package for $18 million. That combination of added commitment and extra dollars had to sway Dumervil. The Broncos could offer only what they could muster.

But let's also be real here. There's no reason to think the Ravens won't someday be in a position where they're asking Dumervil to redo this current deal before it expires. They just had to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers because he wouldn't take a pay cut of his own.

The money Dumervil will receive this coming season also isn't much different from what Denver was offering. The Ravens will pay him $8.5 million (the Broncos would've given him $8 million) and Baltimore guaranteed him only $2 million more for the entire deal than Denver ($12 million to $10 million).

What this really comes down to is a three-time Pro Bowl player being seriously miffed about one of the more embarrassing moments in NFL transaction history. We'll never know exactly who or what was responsible for Dumervil being stuck in that unwanted position. We can assume it left such a bad taste in his mouth that it clouded anything the Broncos were willing to do for him going forward. And that's too bad for both parties.

As Broncos general manager John Elway said in a statement after Dumervil signed with Baltimore, "As we have from the start of this process, we worked diligently over the last week to find a way for Elvis Dumervil to remain a Denver Bronco. Although we made multiple contract offers to Elvis after being forced to release him, we were unable to reach an agreement and are now moving forward without him."

Elway praised Dumervil's seven seasons with the franchise, and the leadership that led to Dumervil being named team captain. It basically was a way of letting Broncos fans know the franchise will dearly miss a man who produced 63.5 career sacks. When Dumervil eventually talks about his new deal in Baltimore and the excitement of being a Raven, we'll certainly hear his side of this.

What we won't hear is something that will become quite obvious later this fall. He'll miss the Broncos even more.