Defensive end Derek Wolfe thought he’d be drafted by the Ravens before then-general manager Ozzie Newsome selected outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with the 35th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft.
Denver took Wolfe one spot later, leading to a fruitful eight-year run that included 108 starts and a Super Bowl 50 championship. The 30-year-old is very complimentary about his time with the Broncos, but he sensed his time there was coming to an end last season when the organization didn’t approach him about a contract extension. With the Broncos starting 0-4 and falling out of contention early, Wolfe even pondered asking for a trade to the Ravens, saying he always believed he’d “fit into that organization really well” from the time the Cincinnati product and northeast Ohio native took a pre-draft visit to Owings Mills eight years ago.
But when the Ravens agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers at the start of free agency last month, Wolfe thought he’d missed his chance, wondering if the dislocated elbow that sent him to injured reserve last December worked against him. Of course, the Brockers deal fell through over concerns about his ankle, opening the door once again for Wolfe.
Fully recovered from the elbow injury, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman didn’t want to waste any time getting in touch with general manager Eric DeCosta.
“I immediately called my agent and said, ‘What’s going on with the Ravens?'” Wolfe said in a conference call on Friday. “He said, ‘I’m already on the phone.’ And I was like, ‘Yes! I really don’t care about the money. At this point, I just want to get on that team. That’s the team I want to get on, I want to be on.'”
His respect for the Ravens didn’t stem solely from his pre-draft experience or several head-to-head encounters, which included the “Mile High Miracle” classic. He ate breakfast with Joe Flacco at the Broncos facility regularly last season, and the former Baltimore quarterback spoke glowingly of the organization, describing it as “one big family.”
Wolfe also sought input from former Broncos teammate Elvis Dumervil, who spent four seasons with Baltimore and was selected to two of his five Pro Bowls with the Ravens.
“‘Doom’ was like a mentor for me my rookie year, like a big brother to me,” Wolfe said. “Anything he says I usually listen to and I take it to heart because he’s a very straightforward guy. If he doesn’t like it, he’s going to tell you, and he had nothing but good things to say about the organization. He said I’m a perfect fit there. He’s like, ‘You’re going to love it.'”
Settling for a one-year, $3 million deal worth up to $6 million with incentives, Wolfe is eager to prove himself after a career-high seven sacks in 12 games last season. He’s already spoken of wanting to earn an extension with the Ravens as he enters his ninth season and owns 33 career sacks.
Arriving with five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell as part of a revamped defensive line, Wolfe knows the first objective is to strengthen a run defense that was exposed in the playoff loss to Tennessee and ranked just 21st in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (4.4) last season. But Wolfe has even greater expectations for himself, a pass rush that relied heavily on the blitz last season, and his new team coming off a franchise-best 14-2 record and a record-setting offensive season led by league MVP Lamar Jackson, saying he’d “love to bring another ring to the city.”
“I think that we’re going to be able to shut that run game down,” Wolfe said. “Then, when it comes to our offense keeping us up by 10, 20 points a game, it’s going to get ugly for these quarterbacks.”