Dumervil’s departure a blow to Broncos but no knockout punch

AP

In the end, the Ravens probably need Elvis Dumervil more than the Broncos. The rationale boils down to two words:

Von Miller.

Miller, who is two days shy of his 24th birthday, has notched 30 sacks in his first two NFL seasons. What’s more, he’s under contract for two more seasons at very reasonable salaries — about $2.3 million in 2013 and $3.2 million in 2014, per Rotoworld figures.

The Miller contract, in addition to being a major bargain, gives the Broncos time to find a workable long-term solution at Dumervil’s right defensive end spot. The Broncos already have a promising prospect on the left side in Derek Wolfe, who had a half-dozen sacks as a rookie.

The Ravens, by contrast, lost outside linebacker Paul Kruger (team-high nine regular-season sacks) to Cleveland. Terrell Suggs will be 31 in October, and he is entering his 11th NFL season. Overall, Baltimore had just 37 sacks a season ago — 15 less than Denver.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post reported that Denver is expected to look at free-agent ends Dwight Freeney and John Abraham as Dumervil replacements. Both would be decent short-term fixes. If the Broncos can add a capable veteran and add a rookie right end who shows some potential in 2013, then they are really on to something.

That said, even if the Broncos can’t replace Dumervil’s 11 sacks from a season ago, they are likely to still have a respectable pass rush as long as Miller is in the lineup. Miller did, after all, have more than a third of the team’s sacks last season.

What’s more, it’s not as if the Broncos hadn’t improved their defense before losing Dumervil. Free-agent pickups cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton could prove nice values. I’m especially intrigued by Rodgers-Cromartie, who gets to work with a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Champ Bailey and could thrive in a defense that could see a lot of offenses in obvious pass-first situations. Moreover, Rodgers-Cromartie could be seeing numerous quarterbacks under duress — something any corner should welcome.

Yes, the Broncos are worse off not having Elvis Dumervil. But it could be worse. It could have been Miller on the open market for any team to sign.

Now that’s a nightmarish scenario.