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The interesting reason why Derek Wolfe is comparing this year's defense to 2015's

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 30, 2019

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway’s solely focused on 2019. He’s “all in,” as the saying goes.

Look no further than his most recent deal, where the ink is still drying, to see it.

Instead of extending Chris Harris Jr. and looking toward the future, Elway made the unprecedented move of giving Harris Jr. a $3.15 million pay raise just to ensure he’ll be happy, and more importantly, back on the field immediately to prepare for the 2019 season.

Along with John, there are plenty of other people in the Broncos organization that are completely and utterly focused on 2019 and nothing beyond.

Not only is Harris Jr. entering the final year of his new $12.05 million contract, but there are five other significant defensive players entering their contract year, too.

“You got to go earn it. You got to go earn that next check,” Derek Wolfe said, explaining why so many players with only one year left on their deal is a positive for the Broncos as a whole.

As a matter of fact, Wolfe himself is entering the final year of his 4-year, $36.7 million contract he signed during the Broncos Super Bowl run.

A significant amount of the secondary and nearly the entire defensive line joins Wolfe and Harris Jr. as they enter their contract year, including Justin Simmons, Will Parks, Shelby Harris and Adam Gotsis.

Additionally, Todd Davis has only one year remaining on his contract after this season, but the team could move on from him for only—in NFL terms—$1 million in dead cap after 2019.

“The thing about contract years is it can go two ways,” Wolfe explained on Thursday, as the team works through their final week of OTAs. “Some guys will play really selfish and not be so team oriented. Or they’ll do everything they are told to do, and it ends up working out really well for them.”

Over half of the defensive starters will be playing for their next paycheck this upcoming season.

“I think we saw what happened in 2015 when all of those contracts were up,” Wolfe said, referencing a defense full of players on their contract year that carried Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl.

“We had the best defense in the league. The best defense to ever play, in my opinion. The things that we overcame that year, I think we earned the spot to be the best defense to ever play the game. And we had a lot of guys on their contract year. We had a lot of guys that didn’t play selfish football. They did their job, and it worked out for all of us.”

But isn’t it human nature for a player to “play really selfish,” as Derek said, and not be as focused on the team when millions are on the line?

“If you don’t do what you’re told to do you’re going to get s***canned anyways,” Wolfe said as straightforward as can be, a staple of Derek’s personality.

With over half of the defense chomping at the bit to earn a massive payday in less than a year, the Broncos believe this defense can be as good as any defense. And not just this year, either.

“It’s high,” Davis said on Thursday, talking about the ceiling of this current defensive group. “If we can execute and play well and just execute, this defense will be phenomenal.”

When pressed if it can be comparable to the Super Bowl 50 winning defense, the former team captain responded, “I’m not going to compare it to anything because I feel like it can be better. I don’t feel like there’s anything stopping us.”

And, of course, there is Vic Fangio’s scheme. The scheme that has been raved about by every defensive player over the past two months since the players got their hands on the seemingly too-good-to-be-true playbook.

“I’m falling in love with the defense actually,” Wolfe stated. “Last time I felt this way was when I was first introduced to Wade [Phillip’s] defense. I almost feel like I was born to play this defense. I was telling my wife that last night, because she said, ‘You know it’s your contract year, where are we going to be?’ And I was like, ‘I feel like I was born for this defense.’ So I don’t think they have anything to worry about.”

According to Wolfe, worry is the last thing the Broncos have to do with the majority of their defense entering the final year of their deal.

In fact, it’s time to feast.


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