It’s been an appearance filled summer for Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, as the Denver Broncos linebacker has been featured on Dancing with the Stars, Saturday Night Live, The Late Late Show, Ellen, the Grammy’s and was even seen taking a helicopter to the NCAA basketball tournament. In the coming months, however, it will be his contract negotiations that will be stealing headlines.
When Miller strip-sacked Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl when? year?, it not only secured Denver’s third Lombardi Trophy, but also Miller’s impending pay day. So, after completing his five-year rookie contract, Miller became a free agent this summer.
The Broncos eagerly placed the exclusive franchise tag on their star defensive player, a move which places a one-year, $14.129 million guaranteed contract on Miller. This also prevents him from negotiating with any other teams.
Although the salary cap hit is high, the franchise tag is a sweet deal for the team. With Miller’s value at an all-time high, the Broncos hold little leverage in contract negotiations. Denver would much rather negotiate this contract next offseason, at which point Miller’s value would decrease and his long-term demands would be lower.
In the NFL, guaranteed money is king. With football being such a bruising sport, players’ longevity is constantly in jeopardy. When players sign $50+ million contracts with a team, they almost never receive that full amount. Most of the guaranteed money will be dispersed over the first three years of the contract, leaving the player vulnerable to be cut in the final years when their ability has deteriorated.
Despite being paid in guaranteed money for one season, players despise the franchise tag because they want security for multiple years and are unlikely to hold the same leverage during negotiations the next offseason.
On Wednesday, June 8, the Broncos extended a 6-year, $114.5 million deal to Miller with $39.8 million guaranteed in the first two years, which the linebacker and his agents rejected. It compares similarly to the contract Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed last summer, which included $114.315 million (19.06 million/year). New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon was handed a contract at $17 million/year, including $29 million in the first year alone.
Those two players were signed on the unrestricted free agent market, which raises players’ prices significantly, while Miller doesn’t have the leverage of other teams bidding for his services.
The Broncos have since pulled their offer, turning optimism surrounding the situation into despair for Broncos fans. The deadline for a contract to be met is July 15, or else Miller will play the 2016-17 season under the franchise tag. In previous instances, John Elway was able to sign Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas to contract extensions after applying the franchise tag before the season started.
Having not shown up to mandatory minicamp this week, Miller could continue his hold out through training camp and even the start of the season if he believes it would gain him more leverage.
In a game of chicken between Miller and Broncos management, it is still unclear who’s willing to hold out longer. Miller delivered a championship to Denver in 2016, but it’s now up to Elway to decide if the linebacker’s future play will be worth the albatross contract the market dictates.