Free agency is days away, and the Broncos want pass rusher Elvis Dumervil to help them.
During the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis two weeks ago, the Broncos informed Dumervil's agent, Marty Magid, that the team intended to seek a salary reduction, according to two NFL sources.
No particulars were discussed, and there have been no negotiations since between the Broncos and Magid. It's not that Dumervil is getting picked on among well-compensated Broncos players so much as his current contract has a provision that states his $12 million salary would become fully guaranteed by the fifth day of the league year, or March 16.
If a new agreement is not reached, it's possible the Broncos could place Dumervil on the trading block, or release him.
Magid wouldn't comment when reached by phone Wednesday.
Dumervil has been one of the NFL's top pass rushers since he was selected by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. When the Broncos, under new head coach Josh McDaniels, switched to a 3-4 defense in 2009, Dumervil was shifted to a pass-rushing outside linebacker position and recorded a league-leading 17 sacks.
After that season, the Broncos rewarded Dumervil with a six-year contract extension worth $61.5 million. But about two weeks after signing the deal, Dumervil suffered a torn pectoral muscle in training camp that forced him to miss the 2010 season.
He was paid $3.168 million that season, then collected $14 million in 2011 and another $14 million in 2012, when he made 9½ and 11 sacks, respectively.
Dumervil's sack total tied for 14th in 2012, and he tied for third with six forced fumbles. Still, ProFootballFocus.com, a statistical and ratings company, listed Dumervil as the Broncos' most overvalued player. The statistical service also rated linebacker Von Miller, Dumervil's pass-rushing partner on the other side of the defensive line, as the Broncos' most undervalued player.
The overriding issue with value ratings is salary. Quarterback Peyton Manning, for instance, was rated as slightly overvalued by ProFootballFocus.com even though he had a franchise-type performance in leading the Broncos to a 13-3 record. Why? Because it's hard to play up to an $18 million salary.
It's not that the Broncos no longer believe Dumervil is a good player. They do. It's just that after paying him the superstar money of $28 million the past two seasons, they don't want to write $12 million worth of checks in 2013.
The new league year opens for business March 12, with the expectation the Broncos will be active in free agency. Besides needing money to acquire new players, the Broncos also hope to work out a long-term contract extension with all-pro offensive tackle Ryan Clady, who received a $9.83 million franchise tag last week.
It's not known how much the Broncos want to cut Dumervil's salary. He may balk at a significant slash because the franchise tag on defensive ends this year was $11.175 million, or just $825,000 less than Dumervil's scheduled salary.
Absent a new deal with Dumervil, the Broncos would try to add another pass rusher. Candidates would include Indianapolis Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney, a longtime teammate of Manning's. The Colts will allow Freeney to enter free agency when the market opens Tuesday.
Freeney, 33, had five and 8½ sacks the previous two seasons while Dumervil, 29, had 9½ and 11. But one thought is the Broncos might be better off getting Freeney at, say, $5 million than Dumervil at $12 million, and using the $7 million difference on players who could fill needs elsewhere on the team.