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Derek Wolfe vs Malik Jackson: A No Bull hindsight look

The Denver Broncos ended up 5-11 and now we’re second guessing everything as a fan base. Let’s take a closer look and see if there’s any merit to this discussion.

Denver Broncos Practice Photo By Andy Cross / The Denver Post

With the Jacksonville Jaguars making noise this year in the playoffs it has become somewhat of a common talking point for Broncos Country to look back on two players that were both a huge part of our Super Bowl 50 winning season and wonder if John Elway made a mistake.

I do like fun hindsight discussions like these as the provoke good fodder for football after football is over with (5 - 11...never forget).

So let’s dig in and take a little looksie at these two players and what they’ve done since the big offseason after Super Bowl 50 and see if we can draw some logical conclusion to how well GM John Elway did with this situation.


Malik Jackson

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

Jackson entered the 2016 season as one of the biggest names in free agency as far as the defensive line goes. He is to this day a complete player on the inside with great pass rush ability as well as run defense. His game translates to any scheme up front with real impact when you ask him to play 1-gap penetration where he excells.

Jacksonville rewarded him with a 6 year, 85 million dollar deal with 42 million dollars guaranteed in total. The way the contract is structured, the Jaguars can get out of the contract starting in 2019 with only minor impact in dead money (4 mil in 2019, 2 mil in 2020).

Derek Wolfe

Broncos Chiefs Photo by Steve Nehf / The Denver Post

Wolfe was about to hit free agency as well as a guy who didn’t get as much play in talking circles as Jackson, but was absolutely showing himself to be a stout defensive end for the Broncos that was super against the run and at least average as a pass rusher. He is a player to this day who has great strength and motor (read endurance), but doesn’t have the kind of burst you want to see from a guy that translates to pass rushing superiority.

From what was rumored, he went to the Broncos as soon as he heard about the contract that was offered to Jackson and told them he’d sign that deal in a heartbeat. Supposedly, what you see here for Wolfe is what the team offered Malik in a 4 year, 36.7 million dollar contract with 17.5 million dollars guaranteed in total. With this contract, the Broncos as well will be able to abandon the contract in 2019 where he’d only cost them 4 million in dead money.

Contract Comparison

Here’s my No Bull take aways from these two contracts that everyone should keep in mind when looking back wistfully at the past:

  • Jackson’s deal is 2 very expensive years longer than Wolfe’s.
  • Jackson is making an average of 14.25MM / year while Wolfe is making 9.175MM / year.
  • If Wolfe plays his contract out, then signs with another team, we likely get a compensatory pick in 2020. The Jags wouldn’t be able to get that possibility until 2022.
  • They are both the same age.

On the field stats and No Bull analysis

Malik Jackson Stat Overview

Year Pos G GS PD FF Sk Tkl Ast Snap % PFF All PFF Run PFF Rush PFF Cov
Year Pos G GS PD FF Sk Tkl Ast Snap % PFF All PFF Run PFF Rush PFF Cov
2016 DT 16 16 4 0 6.5 28 5 66.60% 85.2 NA NA NA
2017 DT 16 16 3 4 8 31 9 73.00% 86.8 82.5 83.7 61.8 /

Derek Wolfe Stat Overview

Year Pos G GS PD FF Sk Tkl Ast Snap % PFF All PFF Run PFF Rush PFF Cov
Year Pos G GS PD FF Sk Tkl Ast Snap % PFF All PFF Run PFF Rush PFF Cov
2016 DE 14 14 4 0 5.5 38 13 57.90% 80.8 NA NA NA
2017 DE 11 11 0 0 2 18 13 46.30% 78 82.1 50.5 60

Stat Comparison

Let’s hit a few points about their statistics from the past two seasons while we are at it:

  • You can’t start any comparison of these two players without pointing out that they play different roles. Jackson is an interior DT in a 4-3. Wolfe is a RDE in a 3-4. The important thing you know is that there is no an apples to apples comparison to be made here.
  • At first glance, you kinda get what you pay for, right? Jackson looks categorically at least a little better in almost every statistical category.
  • One thing that jumps out to me is the injury history - Wolfe has missed seven games in the past two years whereas Jackson has not missed one.
  • They both rate very well for linemen from PFF, which is something I in general agree with. They both are very good - great at what they do.

Final Thoughts

Let me just say that I have a very hard time looking back and even starting to think that John Elway made a “bad move” when it comes to these two players. I’m not shy from slinging some mud Elway’s way, but only if he deserves the mud. I have two things worth pointing out here.

One: Malik Jackson was NEVER going to stay in Denver. Feel free to go look up his press conference quotes from back then and read between the lines. About 6 games into the season it was very apparent to me that he was gonzo after 2015 and that there would be no “hometown discount” as he was a player who was wanting to get paid (which is not a bad thing at all...the dude was a stud and was consistently playing better and better as time went on). The Broncos organization wasn’t in a position to lock up that much money on one defensive lineman with Von Miller’s contract situation looming (another big fact many seem to ignore when they start talking about how Elway could have kept Jackson). They made him the offer they could and he chose mad cheddah over an orange and blue sunset.

Two: Derek Wolfe has been a very solid player. Yes, there are some very VERY big injury concerns. No, he does not bring that pass rushing punch the Broncos need on the inside in order to have a dominant defense a la 2015’s squad. But when you step back and look at the overall situation, I think you have think that at least contract-wise a smart move was made here. We have at worst gotten 2 years of play from an above-average defensive lineman at a fair rate of pay.

But that’s just my take. What do you think Broncos Country? Hit up the poll and let us know what you think.


What’s your general take on the Malik vs Derek contracts from 2016?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Elway messed up by not paying Malik
    (290 votes)
  • 32%
    This is a moot point...Malik was never going to stay in Denver
    (1016 votes)
  • 47%
    Wolfe was a great signing at a very reasonable rate
    (1478 votes)
  • 1%
    Wolfe isn’t worth the paper his money is printed on on the field
    (48 votes)
  • 8%
    Who cares? The CHIEFS FAIL SO HARD. LAWL!!!
    (252 votes)
3084 votes total Vote Now