Denver Broncos: Derek Wolfe heading to IR, what's next?

Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe is heading to injured reserve after a bad elbow injury on Sunday. What's next for him?

The Denver Broncos beat the Los Angeles Chargers, but it came with a great cost as defensive end Derek Wolfe hurt his elbow and will be placed on injured reserve for the rest of the 2019 season.

Wolfe hurt his elbow against the Chargers on a play that should have been blown dead. The Chargers were flagged for a false start but no one on the field heard the whistle until it was too late and Wolfe had already gotten injured.

This kind of injury is one in a long line of injuries for Wolfe, who has battled back from way worse than dislocated elbows in his NFL career.

The news of him likely going on IR was first reported by Ian Rapoport on NFL Network.

Wolfe's injury isn't going to require surgery, but time to heal. According to Mike Klis, it's a 6-8 week projection for him.

Wolfe was enjoying arguably the best season of his NFL career in a contract year for the Broncos. He has a career-high seven sacks and all seven of them have come in his last seven games.

In addition to being a great run defender his entire career, Wolfe has been an exceptional interior pass rusher when he's not taking up blocks for edge rushers. This season has proven that and then some as Wolfe's career mark of seven sacks have not come cheap.

He's been a tremendous player for the Broncos since he was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, battling through injuries including one of the more gruesome sprained ankles you will see.

Wolfe embodies everything you look for in an NFL defensive lineman and he's never been afraid to speak his mind.

Is this the end of the line for him as a member of the Broncos? Unfortunately, it's possible.

Wolfe is in the final year of a contract he signed back in 2016, a four-year deal worth north of $36 million. He's mentioned in the past that he took a 'haircut' on that deal to stick with the Broncos and there's no doubt he could have gotten more money on the open market in free agency at the time.

Malik Jackson left the Broncos that same offseason and got six years, $85 million from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even after being cut by Jacksonville, Jackson got a three-year, $30 million deal from the Eagles this past offseason.

There's money to be made out there for Wolfe despite his injury history. He's 29 going on 30 but it feels like he's been with the Broncos for over a decade at this point. He's obviously still playing very good football, and there's no question he's been a good fit in Vic Fangio's defense.

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The Broncos have plenty of in-house free agents to tend to, including Wolfe, and hopefully, they can find some common ground. Wolfe has always expressed a love for Denver and a desire to retire a Bronco but also understands the business side of the NFL.