Standing inside the Ravens' locker room, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil broke into laughter at the suggestion that he's a relative bargain as a free agent signing.
"A bargain?" Dumervil said. "I just come out and play the game of football, which I love. It was a great opportunity to come to Baltimore, and I'm excited about that. I've been getting acclimated. It's been awesome, man."
Although Dumervil definitely didn't come cheaply, signing a five-year, $26 million contract in March, an argument can be made that he's proven to be a wise investment. Especially compared to an alternative the Ravens avoided.
Instead of engaging in a bidding war with the Cleveland Browns for Paul Kruger, the Ravens didn't try to retain their 2009 second-round outside linebacker as he obtained one of the richest free agent deals. Exactly two weeks after the Browns signed Kruger to a five-year, $40.5 million contract that included $20 million guaranteed, the Ravens spent $14.5 million less on Dumervil.
While playing one less game than Kruger heading into Sunday's road game against the Browns, Dumervil has recorded 5.5 sacks, compared to Kruger's 2.5 sacks.
"By signing Elvis, the Ravens got a better player that wound up not costing them nearly as much as keeping Kruger would have," said Ted Sundquist, a former Broncos general manager who was in Denver when the team drafted Dumervil in the fourth round in 2006 out of Louisville. "When we drafted Elvis, he reminded us of [former Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl pass rusher] Dwight Freeney. We felt like he had everything you wanted as an edge pass rusher except for the height. Some people were concerned about that and saw him as a smaller guy.
"We saw incredible lower body strength in him and ability to leverage and turn that corner and use that low center of gravity to his advantage. We felt like, 'Here's a guy sitting in the fourth round with more talent than a fourth-round pick, but got pushed down because he's short. He plays with a lot of heart, is humble and brings his lunch pail to work. He's really mature and has done a lot to prove himself."
Dumervil's total first-year compensation this season is $8.5 million, including a $7.5 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary. That's close to what he would have made in Denver this season if not for a bizarre fax debacle involving a blown deadline on a restructured contract that forced the Broncos to release him.
"A lot of crazy things happened for me to get here, but you try to see the light in everything," said Dumervil, whose deal includes $11 million guaranteed. "We're just playing a game. I'm having fun at it. The more opportunities I get, I think I can definitely make more of an impact."
Meanwhile, Kruger is due $13 million in bonuses and salary in 2013.
Kruger has 39 tackles as a full-time defensive player. Dumervil has 19 tackles and two forced fumbles while splitting time at strong-side linebacker with Courtney Upshaw, who primarily operates on running downs.
Dumervil's presence has provided the Ravens with a bookend pass rusher working in tandem with rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has 53 tackles and eight sacks.
"I think he's as advertised," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Dumervil. "I think he's doing a great job for us, especially in our sub package. He's given us flexibility with really two outside rushers with him and Suggs. We've tried not to move him around as much as we have other people, especially being kind of new in the system.
"We want to try to get him in a position to do what he does best, and that's not covering backs and dropping into coverage. That's going forward. I'm very, very pleased with what Elvis has given us on defense."
Dumervil isn't consumed with personal statistics, including his 69 career sacks.
He acknowledged some frustration with the Ravens having fallen to 3-4 after losing three of their past four games and being in the midst of a two-game losing streak.
"It's critical, crucial," Dumervil said. "We need it for sure."
As a pass rusher, Dumervil has speed and quickness working in his favor along with an unconventional build.
Listed at 5-foot-11, 260 pounds, Dumervil utilizes a big upper body and a powerful hand punch to create leverage and manhandle taller offensive tackles.
Dumervil reminds Pees of a similar-sized player he coached at Kent State: Cincinnati Bengals veteran outside linebacker James Harrison, who's listed at 6-foot, 275 pounds.
"I think sometimes you don't take into account not only the long arms, but also the leverage that a guy has," Pees said. "I'm not saying that you want to go out and you want to draft a bunch of guys who are short, but I coached James Harrison in college and I tried to tell everybody, 'I know he's 5-10 or 5-9 or whatever the heck he is, but you never can knock him down, and he's a powerful guy.' Well, Elvis is similar, not the power-type thing maybe against the run, but similar in his pass rush.
"You've got a 6-5 tackle, and this guy gets underneath him. You always say lowest pad wins. Well, if you're 6-5 and you're 5-10, I know which pad is going to be lower just by standing there. And then when you add the fact that he's got long arms, and he's quick and can anticipate so well, that's what makes him a great pass rusher. I think sometimes you've got to take numbers with a grain of salt. Is the guy a football player? And Elvis Dumervil is a football player."
Dumervil vs. Kruger
Here's a look at how Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil stacks up against Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger:
Kruger;39;2.5;$40.5 millionCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun