In a day and age when NFL teams store playbooks on iPads and everyone with internet access can watch coaches' film, the Denver Broncos were done in Friday by a fax machine.
The Broncos had until 4 p.m. ET to submit a restructured contract for Elvis Dumervil to the league -- the Denver defensive end had agreed to slash his $12 million salary down to $8 million. But that revised document did not arrive at the NFL offices until at least five minutes past the deadline, voiding the deal and releasing Dumervil into free agency.
Worse yet for the Broncos, Dumervil's release will cost the team nearly $5 million in "dead money" -- money that counts against the cap, despite a player leaving.
No matter where Dumervil winds up next, this will go down as one of the most bizarre situations in NFL free agency history. One thing we do know: Because of nearly $5 million, Dumervil-related hit already on the Broncos' books for 2013, it's extremely unlikely that they will be able to re-sign Dumervil now.
Dumervil instead may become one of the most coveted players on the market. His play has dipped in non-pass-rushing situations in recent years, but the 29-year-old still recorded 11.0 sacks last season and led the league with 17.0 in 2010.
The unfortunate reality for Dumervil, though, is that the market for pass-rushers has been much cooler than expected. Michael Bennett, coming off a 9.0-sack season in Tampa Bay, could wrangle together only a one-year, $5 million deal from Seattle (which also signed Cliff Avril to a surprisingly low contract at two years and $15 million).
That's part of why Dumervil agreed to chop his salary from $12 million to $8 million in the first place -- he's very unlikely to receive even the lower figure as a free agent.
Of course, there still stands to be substantial interest in Dumervil, especially from the teams that missed out on Avril and Bennett. The short list includes Atlanta, Indianapolis, Miami and Detroit, though several other franchises could get in the mix.
As for the Broncos, Friday's gaffe leaves them in need of another pass-rusher for the right side of their line. Robert Ayers may pick up extra snaps, as an in-house option, but Denver could turn its attention to players like Dwight Freeney or Osi Umenyiora. Dumervil and his 63.5 career sacks almost certainly are headed elsewhere. And it might take a long while for the Broncos to fully wrap their heads around what went down Friday afternoon.