The Baltimore Ravens found a piece to round out their ever-evolving puzzle by agreeing in principle with former Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil. After a seemingly endless string of roster losses over the previous weeks, a lucky break gave the Ravens the best pass-rusher still available on the market, and at a bargain price.
Granted Dumervil aces his physical on Tuesday, he'll sign a five-year deal with a base value of $26 million and has a minimum 2013 cap charge of just $2.5 million—64 percent of what linebacker Paul Kruger commanded from the Cleveland Browns. For one of the most productive pass-rushers in the league, the Ravens certainly found a cost-effective way to fill the hole Kruger's departure left in their linebacking corps.
With the Ravens, Dumervil will take on Kruger's former job on the outside, pairing him up with Terrell Suggs. In at least one respect, this is a clear upgrade over what the Ravens had in Kruger.
Though Kruger was the team's sack leader in 2012 with nine in the regular season and 4.5 in the playoffs, it was but his first year as a full-time linebacker. Dumervil is more tested and more proven, with double-digit sacks in three of his six seasons and 63.5 over the course of his career. His addition gives the Ravens one of the most dangerous outside linebacker tandems in the league.
One reason why the Broncos were so successful at getting to quarterbacks last season—they had 52 total sacks, tied for the most in the league—was because of the duo of Dumervil and linebacker Von Miller in their 4-3 base. Keeping Dumervil contained meant Miller had a clearer path to the quarterback, and vice versa. This is an advantage the Ravens lacked with Kruger and Suggs (as well as Arthur Jones) on the outside in 2012.
Now, with a healthy Suggs and Dumervil as the Ravens' primary pass-rushers (though they'll also get help from defensive end Pernell McPhee, as well as defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty among others), offensive lines will have to commit a lot of resources to containing Baltimore's edge. The result should be a strong year for both Suggs and Dumervil and, likely, more than the 37 total team sacks that the Ravens had in 2012.
Dumervil played 1,037 snaps in 2012, with 420 of them coming against the run, 559 in pass rush and 58 in coverage. Kruger's snap breakdown last season is practically identical except for coverage. Of his 1,068 snaps, 411 were against the run, 528 in pass rush and 129 in coverage.
The only difference, therefore, for Dumervil in Baltimore is that he'll be asked to work in coverage about twice as much as he did in Denver last year. Though Dumervil's sample size is small, if he performs as well as Kruger, who gave up one touchdown and 100 total yards on 13 receptions, he'll be just fine in that limited role.
Basically, the Ravens replaced Kruger with a better player for a lower price than they would have paid Kruger to stay. While the Ravens didn't necessarily know that it was going to work out this way—after all, it was a series of ill-timed events involving a fax machine that resulted in Dumervil's release from the Broncos—Denver's (and Dumervil's former agent's) mistake became the Ravens' very big gain. Baltimore's pass rush is indeed scary again.
All advanced statistics via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).