I define a defensive impact play as a pressure, a tackle, a pass-batted-down (PBU or PD) or a forced fumble. A pressure can be a QB hurry, a QB hit or a sack. A hurry is when a defender forces the QB to throw because he is close. A hurry does not involve and is not a QB hit. A hurry is pressure, but it is not a QB hit. A QB hit is when the defender hits the QB right after (or while) he is throwing the ball. A QB hit is a pressure, but it is not a hurry. Hurries, QB hits and sacks are mutually exclusive.
Here is the data for the entire defense in terms of impact plays per defensive snap and pressures per defensive snap.
|Player||QB Hrry||QB Hit||Sack||Prss||Comb tck||Miss tck||MTkl%||FF||PD||Impact Plays||Def snaps||Prss%||impact%|
Derek Wolfe was our best defensive lineman both in terms of pressure percentage and impact percentage. Pressure percentage is percentage of defensive snaps where he generated a QB pressure. I realize that this does not split out pass rush vs pass coverage snaps for defensive lineman and linebackers (and it’s a useless number for defensive backs - pressures divided by total snaps blitzing would be a better measure). The number of times blitzing is called out for defensive backs here for players who spend the majority of the pass snaps in coverage. PFR shows that Alexander Johnson was sent to blitz 50 times and generated 6 pressures on those 50 blitzes. So he generated pressure 12.0 percent of the time that he was used to blitz. Compare that to Todd Davis who was only sent on a blitz 24 times (and generated three pressures). Justin Simmons was only sent on a blitz twice in 2019 despite not missing a single defensive snap. One of his blitzed generated a pressure.
The defensive back that we used the most as blitzer was Duke Dawson who was sent eight times in only 346 snaps. His eight blitzes generated one pressure.
Derek Wolfe was responsible for generating a pressure 18 times in 2019 on 533 defensive snaps, almost none of which were pass coverage snaps. Ideally I would be able to get the total number of pass rush snaps for every player on the defense, but that is only available from behind the pay-wall at PFF (which I can’t access anymore). That being said Wolfe’s pressure rate of 3.38% was quite good - ranking 4th on the team behind Von Miller Bradley Chubb and Ahmad Gooden (in very limited snaps).
To compare Bronco defensive players across all positions, impact percentage is a much better tool than pressure percentage. Derek Wolfe was ok for impact percentage (10.1%), but Shelby Harris, DeMarcus Walker and Mike Purcell all made an impact play at a higher frequency than he.
So Derek Wolfe was our best pass rusher as a defensive lineman, but did not have an impact as frequently as Shelby Harris, Walker or Purcell. Does that make him a good candidate to bring back?
Why the Broncos should not bring him back.
Derek Wolfe will turn 30 in about a month. He has played eight NFL seasons and has only played 16 regular season games three times. He is injury prone and will most likely only get more injury prone as the years of football take their toll on his aging body. Even elite defensive lineman tend to decline rapidly after the age of 30. There are a few exceptions, but I’m not sure Wolfe will be one of those.
His current/expiring contract had him with a cap hit of $10.9MM in 2019. Overthecap.com gives him a 2020 valuation of $4.4MM, meaning that he would have to take a big pay-cut for the Broncos to bring him back for what he is currently worth. I doubt that he would accept a deal that low given that this will most likely be his last NFL contract unless he signs a one-year (prove-it) kind of deal.
Being able to cut ties with veterans that are in decline is heart-wrenching, but necessary for teams to get back to consistent winning (or to maintain consistent winning). Sentimentality is not a good reason to overpay to keep a veteran player around.
Why the Broncos should bring him back.
The are very few links left to the 2015 Super Bowl champion Bronco team. With the expected departure of Chris Harris, only Von Miller and Derek Wolfe, were he to be re-signed, would remain. Having those two veteran links to the last truly great Bronco team should not be undervalued.
Derek Wolfe has made Denver his home. His wife and kids have been living there for a long time now and they will most likely want him to stay so that they can stay.
Derek Wolfe is also one of only a handful of players that the Broncos drafted and re-signed after their rookie deals were done over the past decade. Keeping him would show that veteran leadership and past production are valued in Dove Valley and that the team is willing to work with aging players in decline to let them play their last few NFL seasons for the team that they “grew up on”.
Of course, this assumes that Wolfe wants to take a home-town discount to stay with the Broncos. If he wants to maximize his earnings in the last few years of his NFL career, he will probably choose to play for another team besides the Broncos, a team that is willing to overpay him.
Looking solely at impacts is not a great way to evaluate defensive lineman in the Fangio/Donatell defense. On many plays Wolfe was tasked with tying up two offensive lineman so that our ILB’s could move freely and make the tackle. On a play where he does just that, Wolfe does not generate any stats, but he is doing his job and helping the team win. So don’t get too caught up in the comparative stats when trying to make your decision as to what you think the Broncos should do regarding Derek Wolfe.
Should the Broncos re-sign Derek Wolfe?
This poll is closed
Yes, regardless of the cost
Yes, but only if we get him for significantly less than his $11MM 2019 cap hit
Yes, but only with a front loaded deal that makes it easy to cut him in 2021 or after if his play falls off the cliff