An Addendum to Von Miller cf. Fletcher Cox

Since I wrote this late last night, I’ll start this post off as a reminder to first read my initial take on what Fletcher Cox’s extension means for Von Miller.  This morning, I also want to focus on something that Mike Klis published this morning regarding his own thoughts on how Cox’s deal affect’s Miller’s.

The key portion I want to focus on is here:

The Broncos most recently offered Miller a six-year, $114.5 million that would be a record for NFL defensive players in terms of its $19.083 million annual average, but is well shy of Suh in guaranteed dollars.

The Broncos have offered Miller $38.5 million in full guarantee over the first two years of their contract proposal, plus another $1.3 million in workout bonuses for $39.8 million. The team has also offered roughly $19 million, guaranteed against injury only for the third year of the deal.

Injury guarantee, though, does not prevent a team from cutting a player for lack of performance as it compares to the money he’s making. Hundreds of players over the years would say an “injury” guarantee is no guarantee at all.

Even with Cox’s $63 million guarantee coming in over four years — $55.2 million over three years in “new” money, while Suh’s $60 million is over three seasons and the Broncos’ offer of $58 million to $59 million in guarantees to Miller is over three years – it can’t be argued the Eagles just guaranteed more dollars to Cox than the Broncos are offering to Miller.

First of all, the actual new money in guarantees that Cox is receiving over three years is actually $47.75 million, because once again it must be recognized that he was already getting $7.799 million from his rookie contract in 2016.  So while $38.5 million is “well shy of Suh” guarantees, the same is true of Cox’s deal when this is taken to account, even if $47.75 million is much higher that $38.5 million.

But to a second point, we also don’t know whether only $38.5 million in fully guaranteed money is truly the Broncos’ final offer on that front.  Given that I’ve been critical of the team for essentially inventing a deadline in order to get Miller to participate in minicamp, I see it more as a likely opening volley.  The Broncos still had more than month before the real deadline of July 15, and Miller recognized that real deadline as such.

Thus, there are ways to bridge the guarantee gap in this upcoming month if the Broncos and Miller want to.  Of course, there is a chance they won’t, but there’s no reason why they can’t work on it.

Let’s start with what I believe is a good approximation of what the Broncos offered before minicamp, per Klis’s details (I’m keeping the signing bonus the same as Justin Houston’s just for illustrative purposes):

Year Base Salary (Guaranteed) Prorated Bonus Workout Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2016 $9,000,000 $4,100,000 $1,300,000 $14,400,000 $38,500,000 ($24,100,000)
2017 $9,000,000 $4,100,000 $13,100,000 $25,400,000 ($12,300,000)
2018 $19,000,000 $4,100,000 $23,100,000 $12,300,000 $10,800,000
2019 $17,700,000 $4,100,000 $21,800,000 $8,200,000 $13,600,000
2020 $19,000,000 $4,100,000 $23,100,000 $4,100,000 $19,000,000
2021 $19,000,000 $19,000,000 $0 $19,000,000

If you look at the cap savings number in 2018, you’ll see where Miller’s objection lies.  Should the Broncos want to go in a different direction, they can escape from Miller’s contract with a net cap gain in the first year where Miller’s cap number starts to balloon.  What Miller wants is a way to ensure that he can force the Broncos to pay out the entirety of that $19 million base salary in 2018, and if he succeeds, he would earn a cool $58.8 million in his first three years, coming in just about a million short of Suh’s $59.955 in total guarantees.

If I were neutrally mediating this contract, I see a practical way to resolve this difference.  First, get Miller to accept that Cox’s practical guarantees are $47.75 million, as explained above, and not $55.549 million as has been suggested.  Then, get the Broncos to accept that that $47.75 million is going to be a floor for Miller’s full guarantees, given that Miller can legitimately argue that he is a better player than Cox, as well as Marcell Dareus, who had a full guarantee of $42.9 million.

Within that range lies a full guarantee number that can be found.  A perfect midpoint, for example, would be at $51.65 million.  In the contract above, that number could be had simply by fully or practically guaranteeing $11.85 million of Miller’s $19 million 2018 base salary.  If that was done, the Broncos would only suffer a net cap loss of $1 million by cutting Miller–not great, but also not crippling on the 2018 cap.

Both sides could still haggle over a million or two in guaranteed money within the negotiating range I’ve identified, and play around with the structure further to suit their needs.  But the larger point is that as more and more talking occurs over the next month, the greater chance there is that that range narrows.  It does not mean that a deal will be done by July 15, but that it can be done.