Defensive end Derek Wolfe didn't see the field until Week 5 of the 2015 season, due to a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.
But when he did return to action, he dominated the competition, helping the Denver Broncos establish themselves as the league's No. 1 unit. Wolfe was instrumental in that feat.
In the playoffs, not only did he continue to wreak havoc for the Broncos defense, he took his game to another level, culminating in a 24-10 team victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. He notched at least a half sack in each of Denver's three postseason contests.
“I think this game has a lot to do with getting in a groove," Wolfe said Wednesday. "Once you find it, you try to stay in it. I’ll try to come out in Week 1 doing that this year.”
This past January, in the midst of the Broncos playoff run, Wolfe earned the distinction of becoming just the second player to be signed to a contract extension in-season by GM John Elway. Wolfe signed a four-year, $36.7 million contract.
Conversely, fellow defensive end Malik Jackson, whom the Broncos drafted in the same year as Wolfe (2012), earned a contract worth almost three-times as much as Wolfe's on the open market from Jacksonville just two months later.
There's no doubt that Wolfe would have commanded top dollar, had he chosen to wait and see what the open market would bear. Instead, he knowingly took less to remain a Bronco. He has no regrets in that department.
“Absolutely not," he said. "I did what I felt what was right. I’m happy for Malik . He deserves it. I’m where I wanted to be. You can’t put a price on happiness. I’m happy and that’s all that really matters.”
Still, Jackson's departure leaves a hole on the Broncos defensive line. But its a hole Wolfe is confident the Broncos can fill.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1672497-ware-held-out-of-first-da...“I think we’ve got enough guys," he said. "As far as leadership goes, I’m just going to keep doing what I do and lead by example. My play on the field kind of gets these younger guys to just follow along and do what I do. As far as replacing Malik, we’ve got a lot of great guys. [DE] Vance Walker is a great player that filled in and did a great job for us last year. We’ve got [DE] Jared Crick and I know [DE Adam] Gotsis just signed. I think everything is going to be fine.”
Speaking of Gotsis, the rookie second-rounder has drawn a lot of comparison to Wolfe. They're both effort guys. And they were both second round picks by the Broncos. Are there any other comparisons?
"Skin color," Wolfe said with a grin. "He's from Australia. I'm from America. We're both white guys that like to play hard. I mean, at the end of the day, he has to develop his own identity. If I can help him do that, then I will."
The Broncos roster is swollen with 90 guys right now, and it will remain so through July and into August. Some are recent draft choices, others are undrafted rookies and free agents looking to break into the NFL. They're all welcome to compete, according to Wolfe, but they better buy into the Broncos locker room culture.
“We have a standard here, and they either buy in or they don’t," he said. "They’re either going to buy into that standard or they’re going to get the hell out.”
At the end of the day, Wolfe couldn't be happier. Coming off a life-changing contract extension and a World Championship, life is good for the former Cincinnati Bearcat. He wouldn't change a thing.
“I love the city, the fans," he said. "The people here are great. I couldn’t imagine playing in another city. I don’t really want to ever have to play in another city. I’ll probably just play here until I decided to just be done. That’s my plan.”
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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