Barry Gutierrez/Associated Press file photo
Barry Gutierrez/Associated Press file photo
Elvis Dumervil had made up his mind.
He would slash $4 million from his salary in order to stay with the Denver Broncos, the team that drafted him in 2006, rather than take a chance on the free agent market and risk playing for less money or for a team that wouldn’t be a Super Bowl contender.
Dumervil informed both his agent, Marty Magid, and the Denver Broncos of his decision around 1:25 p.m., 35 minutes before the 2 p.m. deadline. The negotiating was the hard part. All that was left was to file the paperwork.
And that’s where it all fell apart.
In a messy situation involving soft and hard deadlines, e-mails and faxes, and late changes to the deal, Dumervil’s signed contract didn’t spit out of a fax machine at Broncos’ headquarters until six minutes after the deadline, at 2:06 p.m. Seven minutes earlier, the Broncos had filed paperwork of their own, formally releasing Dumervil and voiding the rest of his contract that was to pay him $12 million guaranteed in 2013.
The latter transaction is the one that will count with the league, not the verbal agreement Dumervil and the team reached a short time earlier, and the end result is that Dumervil is a free agent.
The Broncos are relieved of Dumervil’s $12-million salary but also have lost a core player they were hoping to keep. Dumervil has 63.5 career sacks since Denver drafted him in 2006, including 20 sacks in the last two seasons while paired with pass-rushing outside linebacker Von Miller.
The Broncos also are left with $4.869 million in dead money against the salary cap, the result of prorated bonuses spread out through 2015, the final year of the contract Dumervil signed in 2010.
After paying Dumervil more than $31 million over the last two years, the Broncos approached the 29-year-old defensive end last week about taking a pay cut. The team believed $12 million was well above market value, even for a player as accomplished as Dumervil.
Magid and the Broncos exchanged proposals throughout the week but were at an impasse as the sides couldn’t agree on both the 2013 salary and future guaranteed money.
Magid said the Broncos initially had told him that, in exchange for chopping $4 million off of Dumervil’s 2013 base salary, the team would add $500,000 to his 2014 base salary of $10 million while also fully guaranteeing $3.5 million of that figure.
Magid said instead, when the new deal was presented shortly after 11 a.m. Friday, the language had been changed to only guarantee the $3.5 million for injury.
“Based on our previous discussions, we believed our offer was fair and were hopeful it would resolve this matter,” Broncos executive vice president John Elway said in statement with a timeline that outlined the team’s position.
Magid said he told Dumervil that meant the team could cut him before next season, and the Broncos had changed their stance at the end of the week after committing money to new players such as free agents Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The Broncos gave Magid and Dumervil a deadline of 1 p.m. to consider the deal.
“That stopped all the negotiations. We had to restart,” Magid said. “I had to explain it to him, what this meant for him. He took some time to think about it, and in the end, he said, ‘I’ll take it. I’ll go back and play for it and show them what a great player I am.’”
That call to accept the deal came at about 1:25 p.m., while Elway and his staff were in a meeting to discuss plans to move forward without Dumervil. The call set off a furious exchange of emails and faxes, from Denver to Magid’s office in Philadelphia, then to Dumervil in Miami. Magid said Dumervil had to find a Kinko’s from which to fax the signed contract back to the Broncos.
“Although we expressed our concern regarding the time constraints, we were assured that the signed documents would be submitted to us before the league’s waiver deadline,” Elway said in the statement.
The team and the agent are in dispute about what time all of the various items of paperwork were sent and received. Magid said Dumervil has confirmation of a fax that went through at 1:55 p.m. The Broncos say nothing was received until 2:06 p.m.
But the end result is that at 1:59 p.m., the Broncos did not have a copy of Dumervil’s signed contract, and they went ahead and cut him rather than pay him $12 million.
“Twenty-three minutes to read it, scan it, fax it, get Elvis to a machine and get it through,” Magid said. “We tried.”
It is certainly possible the Broncos could re-sign Dumervil, though after the drama that ensued Friday afternoon it is hard to imagine Dumervil, Magid and the Broncos quickly engaging in any sort of civil contract negotiations.
But both sides will want to quickly move forward, with free agency now more than three days old.
“Due to this situation, there are now salary cap implications associated with this transaction that we must consider with regard to potentially re-signing Elvis,” Elway said. “At this moment, we are discussing all of our free-agency options to determine what’s best for the Denver Broncos.”
Dumervil immediately becomes the best pass rusher available on the free agent market, though it is possible he won’t find another team to pay $8 million like the Broncos were set to in 2013 under terms of the renegotiated deal. For comparison, Cliff Avril, the player most comparable to Dumervil available this year, signed a two-year deal in Seattle with an average salary of $7.5 million per year.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have a major hole at defensive end, where Dumervil’s backup is former first-round draft pick Robert Ayers, who was a starter in 2011 and a rotational player in 2012. Without Dumervil, the Broncos have the money to sign a veteran free agent. The group of available players includes former Indianapolis Colt Dwight Freeney, a former teammate of Peyton Manning, though Freeney spent Friday visiting with the New England Patriots.
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