AFC Notes: Wolfe, Irvin, Brissett, Thomas

Derek Wolfe‘s extension with the Broncos drew a number of reactions from around the league. From personnel men believing the fifth-year defensive end had to regret his choice in signing a four-year, $36.7MM deal before hitting free agency to agents seeing this contract representing the Super Bowl champions’ arrogance in believing they can convince players to accept below-market contracts.

As for Wolfe, who will now be the cornerstone of Denver’s defensive line after Malik Jackson left for a much more lucrative contract with the Jaguars, he’s fine with his decision.

I did what I felt 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,” Wolfe said, via Troy Renck of the Denver Post. “I’m happy, and that’s all that really matters.”

Wolfe enjoyed by far his best season in 2015 despite missing four games due to a PED suspension. He registered eight sacks counting his 2.5 in the playoffs and graded out as a better performer than Jackson on Pro Football Focus for the first time since the duo began to see time together in 2013. Jackson, though, bypassed Broncos offers that topped out at around $11MM AAV and wound up becoming one of the league’s highest-paid defensive linemen with a six-year, $85.5MM accord.

Wolfe and Chris Harris represent the five-time reigning AFC West champions’ latest in-season extensions. Should Von Miller reach an agreement on a landmark extension with the Broncos by July 15, Brandon Marshall and Emmanuel Sanders loom as the next high-profile free agents-to-be for a team that’s had many such players reach this status the past few years.

Here’s more from around the AFC, starting with a connection between new Raiders that helped cement the Silver and Black’s opinion of their biggest rookie investment last month.

  • The Raiders consulted newly acquired Bruce Irvin before drafting West Virginia’s Karl Joseph in the first round last month, Scott Bair of reports. A former first-round Mountaineer alum himself, Irvin had been a Raider for less than two months when the team reportedly asked for his opinion of Joseph, whom Irvin did not play with at West Virginia. Irvin went in the 2012 first round to the Seahawks months before Joseph began his West Virginia tenure, but the two had contact when Irvin would visit his alma mater. “I wouldn’t ask them to bring somebody in who wasn’t going to be able to help us,” Irvin said. “I know what type of player he is. I know the dedication he puts in.”
  • Jacoby Brissett may not have the ceiling Russell Wilson did despite both being third-round picks, but the newest Patriots quarterback investment may be following in the rookie version of Wilson’s footsteps when it comes to contract negotiations, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes. Since third-round picks represent an interesting fulcrum in terms of draft pool money — first- and second-round picks receive the maximum base salaries, with prospects selected in Rounds 4-7 receiving the minimum, leaving third-rounders in a gray area — only 17 out of the 35 players taken there this year have signed their rookie deals. Brissett is angling for more money due likely to his position’s prestige, Volin notes. Wilson’s camp negotiated for a higher base salary than the seven players taken immediately before him four years ago, and this year, third-rounders have already begun to jockey for extra dollars. Despite being picked at No. 88, Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell will earn $25K more than No. 87 overall choice Nick Vigil will from the Bengals in 2016, Volin reports, and although the players taken immediately before and after Brissett at No. 91 — C.J. Prosise (Seahawks) and Brandon Williams (Cardinals) — having already signed their deals, Brissett’s negotiation still won’t be a simple process.
  • Nearly dealt to the Broncos at last season’s trade deadline, Joe Thomas could again be on the block if the rebuilding Browns flounder as they’re expected to, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes. Thomas said on multiple occasions this offseason he’s glad the Browns didn’t trade him, but it’s somewhat difficult to imagine the 31-year-old likely future Hall of Famer being content on a Browns team mostly bereft of talent as this year’s deadline approaches. A six-time All-Pro, including the past three years, with three years left on his contract, Thomas could still possibly fetch a Cleveland team obsessed with stockpiling picks a first-round selection from a tackle-needy franchise. The Seahawks still come to mind after ending up without a veteran blind-side blocker this offseason despite interest in multiple talents who signed elsewhere.
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