An offseason of losses gave way to a big Ravens gain Sunday night as they announced that they have agreed in principle on a five-year deal with former Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Dumervil, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who had 63 ½ sacks and 16 forced fumbles in six seasons with the Broncos, will be at the Ravens' facility Tuesday to take a physical and — if all goes well — to sign a contract.
"I think this move is awesome," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs told The Baltimore Sun. "It shows we're still in the business of winning and we have the best [general manager] in the world."
Dumervil was out to dinner celebrating with his family when he was reached by The Sun on Sunday night, but he said, "I'm happy, I'm good."
Dumervil's five-year deal is for a maximum of $35 million, according to multiple reports. It includes $12 million in guaranteed money and $8.5 million for the 2013 season. However, all but $1 million of that will be paid out in a signing bonus, meaning Dumervil's cap hit for the coming season will be $2.5 million. That leaves the reigning Super Bowl champions with about $5 million of salary cap space to address their other needs, which include a left tackle, middle linebacker and safety.
But as it stands, Dumervil's addition is a huge coup for the Ravens, who beat out the Broncos for arguably the top pass rusher remaining on the free-agent market. Dumervil will be paired with Suggs in the Ravens' 3-4 defense, creating one of the most dangerous pass-rushing tandems in the NFL. Dumervil has averaged 12 ½ sacks over the past three seasons.
"He is a phenomenal pass rusher and I have not had a chance to play alongside another dominant pass rusher," Suggs said.
The agreement reverses the Ravens' disappointing offseason trend of key roster losses, particularly on defense. Since winning Super Bowl XLVII in February, the Ravens have lost five defensive starters along with pass-rushing specialist Paul Kruger, who led the team in sacks last year.
They had identified pass rusher as one of the offseason priorities, and Dumervil was the Ravens' top choice all along. However, if he had chosen to return to Denver, the Ravens would have moved on to free agent linebacker James Harrison, a former Pittsburgh Steeler. Harrison was due in Baltimore on Sunday night when the Ravens agreed to a deal with Dumervil.
Now both sides have moved on and so has Denver, which has reportedly turned its attention to free-agent pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham.
"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," John Elway, the Broncos' executive vice president of football operations, said in a news release. "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. Elvis was a team captain and a talented player who made a great impact during his seven seasons in Denver. I appreciate all of his effort on the field and the work he did in the community. I wish Elvis all the best as he continues his NFL career."
Dumervil hit free agency only because of a highly scrutinized fax machine mishap between his former agent, Marty Magid, and the Broncos. Denver and Dumervil had agreed to a $4 million reduction on his $12 million salary for 2013, but the revised paperwork did not arrive via fax to the New York-based NFL offices in time to beat a 2 p.m. March 15 deadline.
That prompted the Broncos to terminate Dumervil's contract. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome immediately reached out to Magid to express his team's interest, and those talks continued after Dumervil hired new representation, Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of CAA.
The Ravens and Broncos, the two teams who matched up in a thrilling AFC divisional playoff game in January and will play again in the coming season, went head to head again in trying to land Dumervil. According to the Denver Post, the Broncos offered Dumervil a three-year, $18 million deal which included $8 million for 2013, The Ravens, according to The Post, increased their offer to $8.5 million in 2013 over the past couple of days.
News of the agreement was well received by several Ravens. Offensive tackle Michael Oher called it an "awesome pickup," while wide receiver Torrey Smith and safety James Ihedigbo reiterated their "trust in Ozzie."
"It's definitely unfortunate that we've lost guys in free agency, but you can say we're bringing in other great players and I'm excited to work with them," defensive lineman Arthur Jones said in a phone interview with The Sun. "I'm excited for us to add all these great athletes. It's going to be awesome. I can't wait until we get together. It's about the chemistry. [Offseason team activities] are going to be huge for us to get familiar with each other."
Jones then added, "Don't worry, Ozzie Newsome always has a plan. In Ozzie we trust."
Playing part of last season without Suggs, the Ravens finished tied for 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks, while Dumervil's Broncos tied for first with 52. A relentless pass rusher with a diverse repertoire of moves, Dumervil finished second on the Broncos to Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller with 11 sacks to go along with six forced fumbles.
He led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 when he was coached by Ravens linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale, and then Broncos defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who used him often as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. That's how Dumervil will be used with the Ravens, who now have the flexibility to move around outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.