OWINGS MILLS, Md. - Elvis Dumervil had just hit the free-agent market on March 15, after a botched fax to the league offices, when Baltimore Ravens inside linebackers coach Don Martindale called his former Denver Broncos protégé.
The linebackers coach, nicknamed "Wink" after the television game-show host, made a recruiting pitch that sold Dumervil on an unexpected reunion: He could have what was behind Door No. 2 -- a deal with the world champions.
"I called Elvis and said, 'You want me to get the ball rolling?' He said, 'Heck, yeah!''' Martindale told USA TODAY Sports after Dumervil signed his five-year, $35-million deal Tuesday. "Right after he got released, it was more of a challenge with everyone here saying, 'We can't get him.' I said, 'I think we can.'
"Elvis wants that Super Bowl ring. I'm just glad we got him. I don't know what happened (with the fax fiasco). I just know I wanted to be there to catch him.''
Under Martindale in Denver, Dumervil had a league-best 17 sacks in 2009, and Dumervil said reuniting with Martindale was a leading reason he chose Baltimore's offer, even though it was only $500,000 more. Dumervil had that breakout season playing in a 3-4 scheme, compared to the 11 sacks last season in Denver's 4-3 scheme.
Asked about the possibility that the reigning Super Bowl champions could open the season on the road against his former team, Dumervil smiled and said: "You just gave me goose bumps. I'll be ready for that.'' He added that while he's always played with a chip on his shoulder, now he has "a brick wall."
As for the surreal way he wound up on the street and the new beginning he chose?
"I had faith,'' Dumervil said. "A lot of things happened I felt was a bit shocking. But I knew all along, things happen for a reason. It's not about what happens, it's how you respond. So I'm ready to respond.''
Dumervil, his wife and Martindale's family had dinner Monday night at the Inner Harbor's Capital Grille, catching up and talking about what Dumervil will bring the Ravens: heat. At his best, Dumervil brings a relentless pass rush.
No wonder why his new outside linebacker wingman Terrell Suggs, who called Dumervil, "A phenomenal pass rusher,'' reached out via text to help Martindale recruit the three-time Pro Bowler.
"(Suggs) sent me a text after I agreed with the Ravens, saying he would love to be aligned with me in battle,'' Dumervil told USA TODAY Sports. "He's a phenomenal player. He's put up Hall of Fame-type numbers, so the opportunity to play alongside him is awesome.''
Dumervil's 63.5 sacks over the past seven seasons with the Broncos are tied with Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams for seventh in the league. That disruptive production (including 17 forced fumbles) is what the Ravens were buying when Dumervil unexpectedly hit the market.
Former agent, Marty Magid was six minutes late faxing a re-worked contract to the league's New York office, and that forced Denver to release Dumervil because they were over the $123 million salary cap and his full salary would have counted against the payroll. Dumervil fired Magid, and a new team of agents closed the deal with the Ravens.
"There was no ill will, no hard feelings. I just felt it was time to change scenery,'' Dumervil said. "I wanted to be somewhere where I felt it was a family-type feel.
"It was a tough decision to make, but I knew when I was involved in negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens, I was making a good choice.''
Dumervil averaged 12.5 sacks the last three seasons. He was the youngest free-agent pass rusher available on a market still flooded by John Abraham, 34, James Harrison, 34, Dwight Freeney, 33 and Osi Umenyiora, 31.
Dumervil is Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome's comeback to critics who decry the free-agent defections of Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Ed Reed, along with the losses of Bernard Pollard (who was released), Ray Lewis (who retired) and Anquan Boldin (who was traded).
Sure, Newsome can thank a clerical error, but Newsome got the youngest pass rusher on the market while handing the Broncos -- whom the Ravens defeated in the postseason -- another stinging loss. And Newsome bolstered a so-so pass rush by adding Dumvervil to supplement the quiet signings of defensive tackle/end Chris Canty and Marcus Spears.
"This is the kind of player that you have to game plan around," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
And that's why the Ravens battled the Broncos continued to negotiate with Dumervil, there seemed to be no going back.
"Obviously, myself and coach Wink go way back,'' Dumervil said. "My decision came down to friendship and family. He was a big part in my breakout.''
Said Martindale: "Elvis is relentless about getting to the quarterback. I know it's a billion-dollar business, but he's become like my kid.''
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