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Michael Brockers out, could Derek Wolfe be in? Now what?

The Ravens have shown interest in Derek Wolfe, who now seems like a perfect fit

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With the Ravens erring on the side of caution, they decided to pass on Michael Brockers, who reportedly has a worrisome medical situation due to an ankle injury sustained late last season.

The Ravens, who clearly are looking to beef up their defensive front, have a few options now that they’ve officially passed on Brockers.

One of which, Broncos free agent Derek Wolfe, the Ravens have shown interest in this offseason.

Wolfe has received significant playing time in Denver from when he was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft, providing stable run support with steady, yet unremarkable work as a pass rusher. He fits a similar profile to Brockers.

Brockers has spent time playing alongside Aaron Donald with the Rams, while Wolfe has played with Von Miller throughout his tenure in Denver.

Brockers was selected with the 14th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft, Wolfe was selected with the 36th overall pick.

Brockers played in Super Bowl LIII, Wolfe won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015 (notching 2.5 sacks and five QB hits in three games).

Wolfe has a more mobile profile than Brockers, as he spent the first few seasons with the Broncos filing more of an ‘edge’ role, then kicking inside primarily as a traditional 3-4 base defensive end.

The former Cincinnati Bearcat has been relatively durable, playing in at least 11 games every year since 2012, while playing a full 16 games three times.

Wolfe is an extremely solid tackler, only missing three total tackles over the past two seasons as a Bronco, while wrestling down 77 ball carriers along the way.

Coming off a career high seven sacks, Wolfe checks off many of the same boxes as Brockers:

  • Stout against the run.
  • Playoff and Super Bowl experience.
  • Has played alongside one of the best pass rushers in football.
  • Seeking a third contract.
  • Will primarily play 5-technique with versatility to play 3-technique or line up over the tackle.

Wolfe would likely seek a similar contract to the one that the Ravens penciled Brockers into, which would make a ton of sense.

I would expect Eric DeCosta to have already reached out to Wolfe’s agent, especially considering that the Ravens reportedly made a late run to snatch Ndamukong Suh away from the Buccaneers.

Other potential options on the free agent market include:

  • Wolfe’s former teammate Shelby Harris. Harris would play more nose guard, three-technique and fill a similar role that Michael Pierce held on the Ravens defense, while presenting more upside as a pass rusher.
  • Former Viking Everson Griffen, who fills more of an edge/one-gap defensive end role. Griffen could possibly seek a larger guaranteed salary than Brockers, which he deserves as he’s produced 26.5 sacks and 62 QB hits over the past three seasons.
  • Jadeveon Clowney. Pursuing Clowney would require more roster shuffling, such as potentially inking Ronnie Stanley to an extension, which would free up $9.5 million, leaving the Ravens somewhere around $23 million dollars in cap space.

Signing Clowney seems like a reach at this point, especially considering that the Ravens historically don’t shell out big bucks in free agency to second contract players, but I don’t put anything past Eric DeCosta.

The Ravens could also choose to address the position in the draft, even if they do bring in a veteran like Wolfe.

Two potential fits are A.J. Epenesa from Iowa, who has a similar play style while presenting similar versatility as Calais Campbell. Epenesa (or any rookie) would greatly benefit from playing alongside Campbell, who seemingly enjoys teaching pass rushing techniques.

Epenesa isn’t quite the mammoth that Campbell is, but has massive size, length, leverage and hand fighting ability which present mismatches for any offensive lineman.

At the 2020 NFL Combine A.J. Epenesa posted and listed:

Height: 78 inches

Weight: 280 pounds

BMI: 33.14

Arm Length: 34.50 inches

Hand Size: 10.13 inches

40 Yard Dash: 5.04 seconds

40 Yard (MPH): 16.23 (MPH)

Bench Press: 17 reps (225 lb)

Vertical Leap: 32.5 inches

Broad Jump: 117 inches

20 Yd Shuttle: 4.46 seconds

Three Cone: 7.34 seconds

In 2008, Calais Campbell posted and listed quite similarly. . .

Height: 79.75 inches

Weight: 290 pounds

BMI: 32.83

Arm Length: 35.75 inches

Hand Size: 9.50 inches

40 Yard Dash: 5.11 seconds

40 Yard (MPH): 16.01 (MPH)

20 Yard Split: 2.93 seconds

10 Yard Split: 1.74 seconds

Bench Press: 16 reps (225 lb)

Vertical Leap: 29.5 inches

Broad Jump: 111 inches

20 Yd Shuttle: 4.69 seconds

Three Cone: 7.45 seconds

Having two pass rushers with their size, strength, length and ability to win quickly would be a sight to see. Campbell would maximize Epenesa’s growth during his rookie contract.

Epenesa may not be available at 28, but Baylor’s James Lynch should be available in the second-third rounds.

Lynch played in Matt Rhule’s 3-3-5 as a defensive end. When deploying a three man front, lineman must be able to take on double teams, which Lynch did at a high level during his collegiate career.

Lynch also produced a staggering 70 pressures in 2019.

One area Lynch lacks is length, with his arms coming in just short of 32 inches.

Lynch was second in power five play in pressures behind Chase Young in 2019, but have received relatively little draft buzz.

A unanimous first team All-American in 2019, Lynch was awarded the Big 12 defensive player of the year as well. Baylor’s all time sack leader was also a freshman All-American in 2017 as a true freshman.

Lynch excelled in 2019 after Baylor’s full switch to a 3-3-5 defense, which often dropped eight defenders into coverage and asked Lynch and company to fight through double teams. Lynch responded with 13.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

Lynch had a monster game in the Big 12 championship against Oklahoma,

Lynch displays the “fly to the ball” mentality that the Ravens have built their identity as a franchise upon over the past two decades.

The former Baylor Bear will go much earlier than the general media consensus. The Draft Network has Lynch as the 210th player in their mock draft formula. I would be surprised to see Lynch make it out of the top 100 picks. Fortunately, the Ravens have five picks in the first 106 of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Overall, if the extend Ronnie Stanley, which should be a no-brainer, then they will have over $20 million in cap space, with nine picks in the draft to fulfill Eric DeCosta’s burning desire to bolster the defensive front.

Trades could be possible, although the most likely scenario is bringing in a free agent like Derek Wolfe, then double dipping on a player like Lynch in rounds 2-4.