The Broncos have already been accused by one national analyst of “steamrolling” Elvis Dumervil’s former agent, Marty Magid, so John Elway would rather not get into the details of the most famous fax faux pas since . . . well, since fax machines became functionally obsolete about twenty-five years ago.
But Elway wants it known that the heart of the matter is pretty simple: The Broncos gave Dumervil a deadline of March 15 at 1 p.m. mountain time to accept their final offer to restructure his existing contract. When that deadline arrived, Dumervil’s answer was no. In Elway’s mind, the comedy of errors that followed only confirmed why that deadline existed in the first place.
Elway joined the Dave Logan Show on Monday for a wide-ranging interview about free agency and the draft, and we spent the first few minutes discussing the Dumervil episode.
I started by asking whether the Broncos remain interested in veteran pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, free agents they’ve looked into as possible replacements for Dumervil, who had eleven quarterback sacks last season and 63.5 in six seasons with the Broncos (seven if you count 2010, which he sat out with an injury).
“We’re still looking into that,” Elway said. “We haven’t made any decisions on what we’re going to do. As I’ve said, those guys out there are options, but the bottom line is we also feel very comfortable with Robert Ayers. He’s going to be at the right end — as of right now he’s our starter at right end. We’re not pressed into doing anything. We feel like we can go to bat with the guys that we’ve got if that’s where it ends up, or, if other things shake out, we’ll go that direction.”
I mentioned the report KOA got from a source close to the situation that Magid, Dumervil’s former agent, had an old fax number for the Broncos, so when he tried to fax a signed contract back to the club at the last minute following Dumervil’s change of heart, he couldn’t get through in time.
“The thing that I’m going to tell you is we had a deadline at one o’clock, and I’m not going to take it any further,” Elway said. “We needed a decision at one o’clock. We got that decision that was a ‘no’ and they were not going to accept it, so therefore we started moving on.
“From that point on, we knew that there was always going to be a difficult time to get everything and all the pieces together to be able to get the contract in. That’s why there was a one o’clock deadline put on that. What happened after that, whatever it was, who knows. But the bottom line is there was not enough time to be able to get it done.”
Last week, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and NBC Sports came on the program and criticized the Broncos for allowing the negotiations to drag on so long that the deadline for guaranteeing Dumervil’s original deal even came into play. The 1 p.m. March 15 deadline was one hour before the Broncos had to file a revised contract with the NFL office or be liable for a fully-guaranteed 2013 salary of $12 million under Dumervil’s old contract. I asked Elway why it all came down to the last minute.
“Because . . . nothing comes down unless there’s a deadline,” he said. “Especially in this situation. We had a deadline. That’s why it took the whole week. . . . Until the deadline, a lot of times you can’t get that decision. The sad thing is it took a while to get that decision and by the time we got it, it was too late.”
Florio’s suggestion on his web site that the Broncos steamrolled Magid and now face trust issues from other agents — he based the latter claim on quotes from a single, unidentified agent — is not supported by the facts. Florio’s chief complaint is that the counterproposal the Broncos sent to Magid at about 10 a.m. mountain time on March 15 converted a $3 million guarantee for 2014 to an injury-only guarantee.
But there’s no evidence the Broncos were trying to pull a fast one. Rather, that counterproposal was the result of a Magid counterproposal increasing the 2013 salary in the restructured deal from $6.5 million, the Broncos’ proposal, to $8 million. In their final offer that morning, the Broncos essentially said, “OK, we’ll give you the $8 million in 2013, but in exchange for that concession we’re going to restrict the guarantee we had offered for 2014.”
Dumervil had three hours to mull that over before the deadline. His answer, as Elway related it, was no. Then, after the Broncos’ deadline had passed, with the league deadline looming, Dumervil had a change of heart and decided to accept the restructured deal after all. But Magid was unable to engineer the logistics in time and the Broncos, without a signed contract in hand by the NFL deadline, were forced to release Dumervil to avoid guaranteeing the $12 million salary in the only contract the NFL had on file.
Even after that, with Dumervil on the free-agent market, the Broncos made a new offer of a three-year deal, reportedly worth $18 million — $8 million the first year and $5 million each of the next two, with a total of $10 million guaranteed. Dumervil chose instead to sign the Ravens’ offer of a five-year deal with $8.5 million the first year and a total of $12 million guaranteed.
Logan asked Elway if, after everything that had happened, he still thought the Broncos had a chance of retaining the defensive end after releasing him.
“I thought there was a chance, there’s no question,” Elway said. “When we looked at it, once the Cinderella slipper came off and we had to release Elvis, it was free game and he was a free agent. He was out on the market. We thought we could be competitive there, and obviously Elvis made the decision that he thought was best for Elvis. We wish him luck there and we’ll move on, too.”
In retrospect, what happened seems clear enough. The Broncos decided that Dumervil’s original contract, offered by a previous regime headed by coach Josh McDaniels, was too rich. With the advent of Von Miller, Dumervil was no longer the Broncos’ best pass rusher. The Broncos thought his value was roughly half the salary he was scheduled to make this season.
Dumervil had a hard time accepting this, but with the free agent market not yet open, he had no way of judging the market for pass rushers. As it turned out, it was only slightly higher than the Broncos’ initial offer. In any case, he seems ultimately to have reconciled himself to a pay cut, but wanted it to be less than the 46 percent cut for 2013 the Broncos had proposed. He got the Broncos up to $8 million, a 33 percent cut, but in exchange was asked to accept the injury limitation on the 2014 partial guarantee.
The fact that he turned down this compromise initially indicates his lack of enthusiasm for the revised deal. The fact that the Broncos’ three-year offer after he became a free agent was worth less in the aggregate than the restructured contract Dumervil originally turned down indicates the Broncos weren’t that enthused about the restructured deal either, thinking it still overpaid Dumvervil in the out years.
In short, the two sides never agreed on Dumervil’s current value, so it may well be better for both that the deal fell apart. But one lesson from the affair became indisputable when Dumervil fired Magid the day after the fax faux pas:
If you’re transmitting legal documents on a deadline, and you’re doing it by fax for some reason, check in advance to make sure you have the right fax number.