Report Sheds Light on What Future Holds for Broncos' DL Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris

Chad Jensen

While Von Miller was in the midst of a 'down year', Derek Wolfe was quietly having the best season of his eight-year career with the Denver Broncos in 2019. Wolfe took to Vic Fangio's dynamic and complex defense like a duck to water, posting a career-high seven sacks. 

Then, disaster struck. 

Wolfe suffered an elbow injury on a play that was blown dead in Week 13 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers. He would finish the season on injured reserve. 

When Wolfe hit IR with still a quarter of the season left to play, he was the Broncos' leader in sacks. He was a consistent force and playmaker for the Broncos in 2019. 

On one hand, you feel for a guy who was dominating in a contract year. On the other, if you're a diehard Broncos fan, you might see the silver lining in Wolfe's season-ending injury. 

Because he finished the year on IR, it makes him less attractive to outside teams, especially considering his age, which perhaps increases his odds of re-signing with the Broncos. Wolfe will turn 30 later this month and will set out to consummate what could be the last multi-year deal of his NFL career.

Wolfe has expressed a desire to remain in Denver, so long as the Broncos make him a "fair" offer. According to a report from Pro Football Network's insider duo — Benjamin Allbright and Tony Pauline — the expectation in Dove Valley is that Wolfe will return and that fellow free-agent defensive lineman Shelby Harris will sign elsewhere.

Sources close to the Broncos suspect Shelby Harris will get paid on the open market and that Derek Wolfe will come back. Shelby is expected to have offers from about half the league and wants to go to a competitor. Sources say Colts are an ideal fit. Wolfe would like to finish his career as a Broncos player. 

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Although Wolfe and Harris are only separated in age by about a year and a half, the latter is expected to have a larger demand on the open market. It's a slightly oxymoronic notion, however, as Wolfe is vastly more proven. 

Wolfe has never been elected to a Pro Bowl, but he's started every game he's ever played in the NFL dating back to his Week 1 of his rookie year in 2012 and he's contributed to a lot of wins with the Broncos. Meanwhile, Harris is coming off his first and only year as an every-game starter. 

Don't get me wrong; Harris has flashed for the Broncos. But in four less games, Wolfe posted one sack more than Harris last season, while also doubling Harris' number of QB hits (Wolfe 12, Harris 6). 

And yet, Harris is expected to command upwards of $12 million per year on the open market. Two things I'll say about Harris. One, he's great at batting down passes at the line. 

Two, he has a knack for making a critical play in clutch moments. Whether it be blocking a field goal attempt as time expires, or picking off a would-be go-ahead touchdown pass, or batting down a go-ahead two-point conversion in the waning moments, Harris has helped the Broncos clinch several wins by virtue of this 'clutch gene'. 

You can't take that away from him. And while that certainly has value, if I'm the Broncos, I'd rather invest double-digit millions into a more consistent player like Wolfe, who is both a dominant run defender and a sneakily savvy pass rusher. 

Wolfe is also a homegrown, true-blue Bronco. You could also say that he's a 'John Elway guy'. So long as Wolfe's ask isn't astronomical, it's a good bet that he'll end up re-signing with the Broncos so that he can accomplish his goal of finishing his career in the Orange and Blue. 

Even if it took $12M/year to re-sign Wolfe, and even considering his substantial injury history, again, if I'm the Broncos, I'm more comfortable giving that money to Wolfe than Harris, simply because of the fact that A.) you know what you're going to get from Wolfe and B.) there's no question that he's a perfect fit in the Fangio scheme. 

Free agency officially opens around the NFL on March 18. In less than a month's time, Broncos fans will know whether Wolfe will re-up and stay in the Mile High City where he's started his family and built his NFL career. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

Comments (16)
RickyBobby_0815
RickyBobby_0815

Not sure why the article says “New Report” when this has been mentioned by other insiders.

No. 1-9
Broncos61
Broncos61

"And yet, Harris is expected to command upwards of $12 million per year on the open market. Two things I'll say about Harris. One, he's great at batting down passes at the line. " The absolute age is not as important as body wearing and injuries. Despite that S. Harris is 29 years old, his body is more like 26, as he has only 3-4 full playing seasons in NFL , as before joining Broncos he was mostly on practice squad. D. Wolf has 9 !!!!!! full playing seasons.

Arbbq
Arbbq

Harris nor wolfe deserve 12 million. Ten million max. Harris gets no penetration and Wolfe gets hurt often and is getting older. So if either one demands 12 million/ yr I would look hard at all my option including letting them walk.

BeGoodBroncos
BeGoodBroncos

If WolfeMan is Healthy 12 mil would be worth it the way he was playing last year. Idk how severe that injury was. Severe enough enough to shut down his season obviously, but he's what, 30 this year ?

One has to remember these guys are world class athletes with the best medical care possible, so ... I could see 12. Just don't think Elway will

ZED Fan from Aus
ZED Fan from Aus

I concur with the majority of sentiments here. I love them both but Wolfe is that 'Broncos' guy who bleeds orange and blue - where it seems like Shelby is more than happy to move on for the money. So, assuming that they both command the same price there are two important things to consider - who is going to contribute more to the teams overall performance, and how much value do you place on loyalty and familiarity? I know as a fan I would much prefer to see Wolfe stay just because I've grown fond of his personality and prescence - should that determine that he stay on the team? Logically, no... But something to also consider is crucial performance leadership. Something the Broncos lost when Peyton and Ware retired was veteran leadership that sparked higher performance for the whole team... and that is something we will likely lose again if Wolfe does not re-sign.

broncofan55555
broncofan55555

I agree about the wear and tear on Wolfe and his injury history. That has to be a HUGE factor in negotiating what should be considered a "fair" pay scale. I'm hoping for another home town discount from his corner because it would be great to see Wolfe end his career as a Bronco.

Rideordiedbfan
Rideordiedbfan

Sign Wolfe and both Harris's can kick rocks. Sorry boys but its business right?

broncobuckeyenomad
broncobuckeyenomad

Let them both walk if they’re gonna fetch $12 M. But I would be blown away if Wolfe got even close to that. He’s an above average player when healthy but he’s rarely healthy. If he does get $12 M elsewhere they can target Espenesa with pick 15.

Harris is gonna get $12 M and he’s earned it. A NT isn’t expected to rack up sacks. His pressure rate was less than stellar but he comes up HUGE when it matters most. He’ll fit in great with the Colts and I wish him the best. That being said he’s also very replaceable. There are several talented NT available in free agency. Reader, Philips and especially Hargreaves would be a better fit in Fangios scheme anyways.

kevinbear741
kevinbear741

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