ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – It sounded more like a bad episode of a bad reality series than the NFL. The Denver Broncos had agreed to a new contract with Elvis Dumervil. Then they hadn’t. The culprit – well, that all depends on whose version of events you want to believe. But a fax machine was definitely involved.
Back together for offseason workouts without the man who has accumulated 63 1/2 sacks for the franchise over his six healthy seasons in Denver, Dumervil’s ex-teammates all agreed that they’ll miss their erstwhile pass rusher, team captain and, as linebacker Von Miller calls him, their “rock” in the locker room.
But the Dumervil debacle also provided them a refresher course on one of the most important NFL lessons: It’s a business, and not always a pretty one.
“It’s probably the least favorite part of it for me,” Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said of the business side of the league. It was, ultimately, a business decision that led the Colts to part ways with Manning in favor of Andrew Luck.
The Dumervil-Broncos relationship started unraveling when the franchise asked its 2006 fourth-round draft pick to take a $4 million pay cut from the $12 million he was scheduled to make in 2013. Not that unusual of a request, especially considering the circumstances – with top defensive ends commanding only around $7 million in the market this offseason.
Dumervil took his time deciding and things got squirrely on deadline day, when he finally agreed to the pay cut but the communications between team, player and agent – three parties situated in three different cities – broke down.
The Broncos awaited a signed, faxed contract but with a deadline ticking it didn’t show up. (No explanation, as of yet, on why a fax machine was in play to begin with). They were forced to cut Dumervil or owe him all $12 million of his original contract, which would have put them in salary-cap trouble.
The Broncos and Dumervil’s agent, Marty Magid, who was subsequently fired by Dumervil, had different versions of the timing of the events. Regardless, Dumervil was a free agent. With similar offers on the table from the Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens, Dumervil decided a fresh start was in order. He conveyed no outward bitterness, though some who knew him said he certainly wasn’t happy with the way things went down.
“That was a prime example of how this business works,” said cornerback Champ Bailey, who would be an ex-Bronco today had the team not fired coach Josh McDaniels, the man who gave Dumervil his fat contract and, separately, had no intention of re-signing Bailey, the All-Pro cornerback, feeling he’d passed his prime.
“Being in Elvis’ shoes, I kind of understood where he came from as far as wanting to sign somewhere else,” Bailey said. “You really don’t know. You’ve got to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, your career, who’s to say where you’ll end up? I respect his decision. I wish we could’ve found a way to keep him, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
With Dumervil long gone, the Broncos are a week away from the draft and haven’t made a definitive move to replace him yet. John Elway, who runs Denver’s front office, says he has a plan. Dwight Freeney, formerly of the Colts, is a free agent and could still join the team.
But as things stood as of Wednesday, Robert Ayers – a first-round draft pick in 2009 with 6 1/2 sacks in four seasons – would take over Dumervil’s spot at right end. The Broncos are also expected to look at defensive ends in next week’s draft.
One theory is that the team wants to see what Ayers can do, especially with Miller playing behind him. Miller had 18 1/2 sacks and there’s a thought that with his talent, almost anyone playing in front of him – possibly second-year lineman Malik Jackson, as well – will look good.
“Losing Elvis, it’s not fun for anybody,” said defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, a second-year player who will also be asked to pick up some slack. “It’s not fun for me, it’s not fun for this team, it’s not fun for this defense. But that’s the game. It’s a business and sometimes, things like that happen. I’m losing a great friend and a great mentor, but we’ll stay in contact. I’ll still call him and ask him for advice.”
Indeed, most of the players have tread delicately around the business-versus-loyalty topic this week, as they reconvene without the man Miller called “our leader in the locker room. He was our rock.”
Miller said he’ll always be “brothers” with Dumervil, but he, and the rest of the Broncos, know he plays for the enemy now – the team that knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs last year, then signed one of their best players.
All part of the business of the NFL.
“There’s something you learn every year,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “Something different happens. You’ve got to expect the worst. I talked to `Doom’ about the offseason and we’re still friends. He’s excited about new opportunities and so are we.”
By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)