Elvis Dumervil was defiant in response to late-season questions about how much football he has left in his career. As he prepared to leave the locker room the day after the 2016 season ended, Dumervil was asked how impactful it would be for him to feel completely healthy again.
“You’ll see,” Dumervil said before walking briskly away from reporters.
If Dumervil engineers a late career resurgence, it almost certainly won’t be with the Ravens. They released the 33-year-old pass rusher Wednesday, an expected move given Dumervil’s age, declining sack numbers and escalating salary cap figure.
By releasing Dumervil, the Ravens created $6 million in salary cap space, while absorbing $2.375 million in dead money. Dumervil, who is one sack shy of 100 for his career, had been set to enter the final season of a five-year, $26 million contract, signed in 2013.
“Elvis Dumervil has been a leader for us on and off the field,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome stated. “He has made a positive impression on our franchise, and we have been fortunate to have him as a Raven. We respect his professionalism and the way he plays the game, in addition to his extensive charitable efforts that have greatly impacted our Baltimore community and his parents’ native country of Haiti.
"We have not closed the door on the possibility of him returning in the future.”
The move, coupled with Tuesday's release of defensive backs Shareece Wright and Kendrick Lewis and the various restricted free-agent tenders, leaves the Ravens with about $15 million of salary cap space ahead of Thursday’s start of free agency.
In addition to the savings, the release of Dumervil signifies the Ravens’ willingness to give young pass rushers Za’Darius Smith and Matthew Judon a bigger opportunity going forward. Rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, 34, is expected to return for his 15th season and the Ravens will likely add at least one edge rusher in either the draft or free agency as improving the pass rush is a stated offseason priority.
The Ravens had just 31 sacks in 2016 and only six teams finished with fewer. Dumervil had three sacks, 11 tackles and two forced fumbles while being limited to just eight games because of what was initially listed as an offseason procedure to the “foot area.”
Dumervil missed the first three games, made a relatively ineffective two-game return and then was sidelined for five straight games to strengthen his surgically repaired foot. He had three sacks over the final six games as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. Dumervil acknowledged late in the season that he was trying to come back from offseason Achilles surgery and he expected to be much better in 2017 after a healthy offseason.
Now, for the second time in his career, Dumervil will be a free agent. He signed with the Ravens in March 2013 after he was released by the Denver Broncos following the infamous fax machine snafu. Dumervil had agreed to a pay cut to stay with the Broncos by the league-mandated deadline. However, Dumervil’s then-agent, Marty Magid, didn’t fax the reworked contract back to the Broncos in time, spurring the linebacker’s release from the team that had drafted him.
Dumervil signed with the Ravens, the team that had thwarted the Broncos' Super Bowl hopes the previous season, a little over a week later. Team officials sought to replace departed free agent Paul Kruger with a more accomplished pass rusher opposite Suggs.
In four seasons with the Ravens, Dumervil had 35½ sacks and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice. When healthy, he was exactly what the Ravens expected.
After collecting 9½ sacks in his debut season with the Ravens, Dumervil set a Ravens franchise record in 2014 with 17 sacks, combining with Suggs to form the most prolific pass rush duo in the NFL. However, in two seasons since, Dumervil has just nine sacks in 24 games.
He struggled to make a significant impact in 2015 with Suggs missing just about all of the season after he tore his Achilles in Week 1 and with Pernell McPhee having left in free agency. And he never appeared to be healthy this past season after the slow recovery from Achilles surgery.
Still, Dumervil should garner interest on the open market. His 99 career sacks rank 32nd all time – and fifth among active players – and pass rushers are always in demand.