Is Broncos County big enough for Peyton Manning and Elvis Dumervil?
Here's why living the NFL life is sweet, until it stinks. Dumervil signed a $61.5 million contract in 2010. Now, the team wants him to give money back. Or else.
Or else what? The Broncos could cut Dumervil.
Tough business. Money rules. Egos bleed.
With 63½ career sacks, Dumervil is No. 7 on the team's all-time list, right behind Lyle Alzado and Trevor Pryce. To stay in town and have a shot at winning a Super Bowl, however, the wallet of Dumervil might have to take a tougher hit than any pain he has ever caused a quarterback.
For Broncos executive John Elway, this makes good football sense.
For Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, this makes solid economic logic.
For Dumervil? It's good to verify loyalty isn't worth a nickel in the NFL.
There's no questioning the sincere ambition of the Broncos. They want to win it all. Linebacker Von Miller has guaranteed a championship for Manning, Bowlen and a city to share.
But, in a game regulated by a salary cap, the tough financial discussions between Dumervil and the Broncos are a brutal reminder. You can't have it all. With holes to fill or room to improve in the defensive secondary, the offensive line and at running back, spending $12 million on Dumervil for the 2013 season is an extravagance this team believes it cannot afford.
Although a fierce pass rusher, Dumervil is closer to a down-and-distance specialist than an all-around beast.
In the playoff loss to Baltimore, Dumervil made three tackles. In truth, his skill set might be more suited to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme than as a defensive end for Denver coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Listed generously at 5-foot-11, what Dumervil does physically can be so spectacular it defies imagination. But he is 29 years old, and it is fair to wonder if the violence of the NFL could accelerate the aging process of an undersized defensive lineman.
As the Broncos explore a solution for the contractual impasse with offensive tackle Ryan Clady, it's understandable the team wants to trim payroll fat as shopping in the free-agent market begins.
Word is the Broncos have expressed interest in 33-year-old Dwight Freeney, a teammate of Manning's in Indianapolis, as a 50-cents-on-the-dollar replacement for Dumervil. Freeney was often forced to play out of position for the Colts last season. He got banged up. But the seven-time Pro Bowler also looked old and slow.
However you do the math, it keeps coming back to this: Manning is scheduled to make $20 million this season. Worth every penny, if you listen to Elway.
Dumervil's cap hit is $13.6 million. With expenditures on only two players, the Broncos would chew up more than 25 percent of the $123 million salary cap.
That does not compute.
Manning changed the attitude of the locker room and the mentality of the franchise. It's win now.
But Manning also changed the way the Broncos need to structure their budget. It appears Dumervil is being asked to pick up a hefty portion of the tab. So maybe the Broncos do have a Plan B, after all.
Dumervil is a team guy, no question. A pay cut, however, can be tough for any proud man to swallow.
Many fans will naturally side with the team, and Dumervil's loyalty will be questioned, if he decides to seek better money elsewhere. Count on Doom hearing this not-so-subtle form of public pressure: Does he want to help the Broncos win a Super Bowl, or not?
But let us not forget: The Broncos also signed the contract. It is management that wants to go back and change the terms.
Living the NFL life is sweet, until it stinks.