What the fax? Elvis Dumervil contract fiasco could shift balance of power in AFC

Michael Silver

During his seven-year NFL career, Elvis Dumervil has established himself as one of the NFL's most potent edge rushers.

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If only he'd had some cutting-edge technology at his disposal Friday, he'd still be a member of the Denver Broncos, who released him in an NFL fiasco for the (dark) ages.

After the defensive end agreed to a pay cut that would have kept him with the team for the 2013 season, Dumervil's agent, Marty Magid, reportedly had 35 minutes to make it official. With Dumervil's previous salary of $12 million due to become guaranteed at 2 p.m. MT, the Broncos needed a signed copy of the revised contract.

Unfortunately for the team — and, especially, for Dumervil — all parties concerned were relying on the technological equivalent of the goal post in the middle of the end zone.

Yes, in an era in which scanners, electronic signatures and instant Internet transmission are prevalent and readily available, a dreaded fax machine seems to have derailed what had been an impressive offseason for the Broncos. It also may have cost Dumervil enough coin to buy up every remaining spool of fax paper on God's great earth and, depending upon what plays out in the coming days, could affect the balance of power in the AFC.

Let me repeat that: The National Football League, a multi-billion dollar business that appears to be recession-proof, turns to the fax machine when deadline-sensitive deals hang in the balance. And because Dumervil's agent, who right now must be hanging by a thread thinner than Jerry Maguire in the Rod Tidwell post-shower scene, had more trouble making a connection than Tim Tebow in Kansas City two Decembers ago (sorry, Broncos fans), Elvis has metaphorically left the building.

This shouldn't happen to Elvis Dumervil. It arguably shouldn't even have been able to happen to Elvis Grbac, who played quarterback for three NFL teams from 1994-2001. It's the kind of mishap that should have been a possibility in the time of Elvis Peacock, a former Oklahoma star who was a Los Angeles Rams running back from 1979-80.

You'll notice that the Los Angeles Rams are now obsolete. This just in: So, too, is the fax machine. Or, at least, it should be.

Because it apparently exists only for high-stakes NFL transactions and national letters of intent at college-football offices across America, Dumervil and the Broncos are on the outs.

To recap, Dumervil had agreed to accept a restructured contract that would have paid him $8 million in 2013 and given the Broncos some cap relief. That, it turns out, was the easy part. With a fax machine apparently malfunctioning and the deadline approaching, Broncos executives had a choice: Do nothing, and allow Dumervil's original $12 million salary for 2013 to become guaranteed, or cut him.

They cut him. They were not happy. Six minutes later, Dumervil's fax finally went through. Why do I picture executive vice president John Elway and director of player personnel Matt Russell reenacting that printer-smashing scene from Office Space: "PC load letter… what the [expletive] does that mean?"

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It's too bad Dumervil's agent didn't have a Maxwell Smart-style shoe phone/fax machine, because when it came to this all-important deadline, he missed it by that much.

Yes, I want to make jokes right now. I want to blame the long flirtation between the Rams and free-agent tackle Jake Long on a paper jam that has prevented his signed contract from arriving, or to try to name all the social media sites (Friendster, anyone?) that have risen and fallen since the fax became irrelevant, or to wonder whether the Vatican smoke signals heralding the naming of a new pope constitute a more efficient form of communication.

And since I'm one of those poor souls who still uses a fax on one particularly loathsome occasion — sending in my expenses, a process that usually causes me to resemble Jim Harbaugh on an Adderall high while witnessing a dubious call — I need a quick reality check to make sure I'm not improperly assessing the technological landscape.

So, after typing that last paragraph, I went into the other room and summoned my 16-year-old daughter and asked her what she knew about the fax machine in my home office.

"Nothing, really," she said, rolling her eyes. "I've never faxed. No one I know has ever faxed. It's like seeing one of those [rotary] phones or that track thing [8-track cassette player] you talk about that Grandpa used to like. I mean, no one even emails. That's, like, only for when you have to communicate with adults."

And there you have it: I'm even more out of touch than I realized, which is always good for a dad to hear at the start of a big weekend.

I'm going resist the urge to keep goofing on the situation, because it's really kind of sad. Dumervil, given the relatively soft market for pass rushers and glut of available veteran options, might not see close to $8 million in 2013. The Broncos, depending upon how this all plays out, might take a competitive hit.

It's possible the two sides could still work something out, but it's tough to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one. The Broncos, by cutting Dumervil, have already absorbed a $4.89-million cap hit, and squeezing in a revised contract won't be a seamless maneuver.

The NFL, of course, could cut both sides some slack and allow the intended deal to go through without forcing Denver to absorb the cap damage. This seems like the right thing to do, but the league office is in a tough spot.

For one thing, it opens up the NFL to a seemingly unlimited amount of future post-deadline pleas from other teams and players. And, sadly, it's impossible to determine that each side truly intended to consummate the transaction, given the obvious potential for conspiracy theories.

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Did Dumervil and/or his agent intentionally miss the deadline in the hope that the Broncos would fail to cut him, thereby guaranteeing him the $12 million? Is it possible that, during those fateful 35 minutes, Dumervil's agent heard from another team that would pay his client big money and made the delay-of-game call on the fly?

Did the Broncos, having gauged the market, decide after the fact that $8 million was too pricey for Dumervil and claim that the paperwork hadn't arrived as an excuse to part ways without reneging?

Or — more likely — did a maddeningly obsolete machine mess up a handoff that, in this era of instantaneous communication, should have been as easy as Peyton Manning tucking a football in Willis McGahee's belly?

At this point, the answer eludes us. However, I do know this: As soon as I (with apologies to my daughter) email this story to my editor, I'm going to snatch my fax machine off my desk and throw it into the pool.

May it never resurface.

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