By CHAD JENSEN
Derek Wolfe has played seven seasons in the NFL — all for the Denver Broncos. In 2012, instead of making a selection in the first round of the Draft, GM John Elway traded back and took Wolfe in round two out of Cincinnati. Wolfe stepped into Denver and immediately took control of a starting job on the Broncos’ defensive line. As a rookie he posted six sacks, which would remain a career high seven years later.
Heading into 2019, Wolfe is still under contract in Denver, but there have been questions as to whether the Broncos might ask him to take a pay-cut. Wolfe is poised to earn $8 million in base salary this coming season, which, for a player who has struggled with some scary neck/head injuries and only posted 1.5 sacks last season, might be more than he’s worth.
However, according to NFL insider Benjamin Allbright, the Broncos still have designs on keeping Wolfe. Allbright appeared on the Building the Broncos podcast on Wednesday, and revealed an insight into the team’s thinking on Wolfe.
“They want Wolfe to take a little bit of a haircut to come back and sign an extension so he can finish his career as a Bronco,” Allbright said, “and I think they’ll get that worked out.”
Heading into his eighth year, if the Broncos can extend Wolfe through 2021, that’ll be his 10-year mark. Just spitballing, if the Broncos offered Wolfe a front-loaded extension that lowered his cap number to the $6-8 million range, instead of the current number that’s closer to $11M, it might still be close enough to keep him happy.
Wolfe is only 28 and is loved by the fanbase and the front office alike. He’s had a successful career, despite having never been selected for the Pro Bowl.
Wolfe was a key cog on the Broncos’ 2015 World Champion defense that helped decimate the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in the playoffs, and make mincemeat out of Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50. Wolfe was a good player under previous coaches, but when Wade Phillips arrived bringing Bill Kollar with him, the big trenchman took a quantum leap forward.
The last three years have been lean for Wolfe and the Broncos, as far as accolades or any modicum of success goes. But he remains passionate and prideful and carries a lot of weight in the locker room, though he’s never been voted a team captain.
I’m hopeful that’ll change soon. Both Wolfe and Chris Harris, Jr. are two veteran defenders whom the locker room follows, and yet neither have been team captains, no doubt due to football politics unseen outside the building.
Wolfe speaks his mind publicly and isn’t afraid to let slip colorful language at times. The Broncos probably don’t love Wolfe’s blunt verbiage publicly, but behind closed doors, the brass respects the heck out of his work ethic, professionalism and play on the field. Wolfe has always been a team player and a team-first guy.
The extension he signed during the 2015 season (four years, $36.7 million) was less than he could have gotten on the open market, especially after the Broncos won the Super Bowl. He would have been an unrestricted free agent that next spring had he not re-upped, but he accepted a team-friendly deal that still recognized his talent to remain in Denver.
Most fans would be happy to see Wolfe finish out his career as a Bronco. But it’ll come down to him once again being willing to accept a ‘haircut’, as Allbright said, for the privilege.