Grading the Baltimore Ravens' Move to Sign Elvis Dumervil
Despite an offseason of saying goodbye to championship talent, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens might have made one of the best free-signings of the year when they came to terms with defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, and later confirmed by all major outlets, the Ravens agreed to a five-year deal with Dumervil Sunday.
The signing should help take the sting out of a difficult string of recent personnel losses.
In the month or so following a Super Bowl win, Baltimore has lost Ray Lewis, Paul Kruger, Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard. As many as eight starters from last season's title winner either won't be or aren't likely to be back in 2013.
Dumervil, the top free agent left on the open market, should now be the centerpiece to a quasi-rebuilding effort from Newsome on the defensive side of the football.
In the following slides, we'll grade the Ravens' signing of Dumervil on a number of a levels, including fit, talent, price and risk.
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Dumervil arrives in Baltimore from Denver's 4-3 defense, but he comes with plenty of experience standing up and rushing the passer in a three-man front.
In fact, Dumervil led the NFL in sacks (17) while playing outside linebacker for the Broncos in 2009.
The new fit in Baltimore is an ideal one, as Dumervil will be expected to seamlessly fill the shoes of departed free-agent linebacker Paul Kruger. The Ravens' top pass-rusher last season, Kruger had 13.5 combined sacks in 2012 but signed with the Cleveland Browns in free agency.
Baltimore is an even better fit when you consider Don Martindale, Dumervil's former coach in Denver while the Broncos ran a 3-4, is now a defensive coach for the Ravens. Martindale is the inside linebackers coach for Baltimore, but the familiarity should help the ease the transition back to the three-man front for Dumervil.
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From a pass-rushing standpoint, Dumervil's talent is undeniable.
Over six healthy seasons, Dumervil has 63.5 total sacks and 16 forced fumbles. In five of the six years, he finished with 8.5 sacks or more. His one season of limited production came in 2008, when he had just five sacks in 16 games. He also missed the entire 2010 season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dumervil has produced 115 total quarterback disruptions over the last two seasons. The number ranks Dumervil in the top 10 for pass-rushers since 2011.
Dumervil's struggles come against the run, where PFF has graded him negatively in every season but 2011. However, the Ravens have signed two run-stopping defensive ends this offseason (Marcus Spears, Chris Canty), and Kruger had his own struggles facing the run.
Teamed with Terrell Suggs, Dumervil should provide the Ravens with one of the top edge-rushing combinations in football. The talent is certainly there for the two to register 20-25 total sacks next season.
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The total price of Dumervil's deal makes this agreement even more attractive for Newsome and the Ravens.
According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Dumervil's deal is worth $26 million over five years, with incentives pushing the potential value of the contract to $35 million. The Broncos were originally willing to pay Dumervil $8 million, so even the max value of the new deal seems like a bargain.
But the news gets better. Dumervil will cost just $2.5 million against Baltimore's cap in 2013, which meshes perfectly with the tight cap Newsome has had to navigate this offseason.
Overall, the Broncos will pay $8.5 million to Dumervil next season. If he approaches double-digit sacks in 2013, that price tag will be one of the true steals of free agency.
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A more lucrative commitment monetarily would have made adding Dumervil a bigger risk. But at Baltimore's price, is there much downside here?
Dumervil has an injury past (missed 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle), is spotty against the run and will have to make the transition back into the 3-4 after several years playing defensive end. However, neither of these hurdles look very difficult for Dumervil to jump over in 2013.
A talented player at a premium position, Dumervil was the unquestioned top player left in free agency. Plus, he's only 29. The Ravens should get production throughout the majority of Dumervil's deal.
Only unforeseen hurdles could present significant risk for Dumervil. This deal currently looks like one we can safely label low-risk, high-reward.
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It's difficult to see much downside in Baltimore's signing of Dumervil.
Not only has he consistently produced as a top pass-rusher, but he's also young, arriving on a good contract and filling a big need on the Ravens defense. These factors combine to make the agreement a much-needed slam dunk for Newsome.
After a difficult start to free agency that saw key contributor after key contributor bolt town, the Ravens needed a splash move like this one. Lewis and Reed are gone, but Dumervil and Suggs should give Baltimore an elite pairing of pass-rushers to make up the deficit.
Despite the losses, the Ravens can now feel much more confident about their situation heading into the 2013 NFL draft after making one of the top deals in free agency.