What Can We Learn From Luck’s Deal For Miller’s Deal?

As you may have heard, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck signed a new contract that will carry a new money average of $24.594M per season. I thought it might be worth examining this contract to see if there are any implications for an impending deal for Von Miller.

While it’s true that Luck and Miller play different positions, how Luck’s contract measures up against other quarterbacks might indicate how Miller’s contract may measure up against other pass rushers.

Jason Fitzgerald broke down Luck’s contract and the details can be found here. Let’s examine how the numbers measure up and what it will likely mean for a Miller contract.

Total contract value: Luck does have the highest total contract value of any quarterback. As we know, that total value can be misleading. A quick check of the breakdown shows that it’s effectively a three-year extension past 2016. The Colts will have to keep Luck on the roster in 2017 and, when that happens, he’s locked onto the roster for 2018. In 2019, the Colts could cut him for cash reasons, but that may not be a practical move.

One thing to keep in mind with Luck, though, is that he was already under contract for this season, as he entered the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

So what this means for Von Miller is that his expectation, and what the Broncos will have to do in the end, is give him a contract that effectively keeps him on the roster through 2018. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he has to have the highest contract value of any defensive player, even though that’s what the Broncos have reportedly offered him. But if that deal originally offered was one that only effectively tied Miller to the roster through 2017, the Broncos will have to modify the offer.

Guarantee package: One thing to remember about Luck is that he had more than $16M in salary already fully guaranteed. Thus, the guarantees to really consider are the new guarantees, which amount to $70.8M. But that still exceeds all quarterbacks.

Where Luck does not exceed all quarterbacks is the money fully guaranteed upon signing. He received $47M, less than the $54M Aaron Rodgers received upon signing. This becomes important to the Broncos regarding Miller, because they can easily argue that Miller’s full guarantees upon signing should not exceed that of Ndamukong Suh, who got $59M fully guaranteed upon signing.

The total guarantees, though, could be trickier. Suh’s full guarantees made up all the total guarantees when he signed. And then there’s Fletcher Cox, who received $63M in total guarantees. Cox received $36M in full guarantees upon signing, which Miller will certainly exceed. But the total guarantees for Miller might have to come in lower, unless the Broncos are OK with Miller having a cap number that exceeds $20M in the years 2017 and 2018. It’s doable, but it may not be what the Broncos would like to do.

The other defensive player contract to consider is Marcel Dareus, who received $43M fully guaranteed upon signing and $60M in total guarantees. Again, I think Miller is in line to get more full guarantees than Dareus. However, I don’t think the Broncos will want to go higher than $45M in full guarantees upon signing; otherwise, he starts approaching the $47M in fully guaranteed money Luck received. They might also be reluctant to approach the total guarantees Dareus got, but that may be a more doable scenario than Cox’s guarantees.

Contract structure: This has more to do with roster bonuses, of which Luck will receive $45M throughout the deal. However, not all the roster bonuses are fully guaranteed. After 2019, Luck will be due $21M in roster bonuses, but that money is not guaranteed.

I throw this out mostly because the Broncos might consider a similar structure in the final years of any Miller extension, but apply the same “not guaranteed” principle that applies to Luck’s roster bonuses. The Colts could opt to extend Luck at that point by converting his roster bonuses into a signing bonus. That doesn’t mean the Broncos would do the same, but the option would be there if Miller keeps playing at a high level or if they need wiggle room under the cap. Otherwise, the Broncos could either cut him outright before the roster bonus is due or get him to take a salary reduction but earn money back through incentives, similar to what the Broncos did with DeMarcus Ware and the final year of his contract. It’s also possible the Broncos could structure bonus money as an option that they could decline and make Miller an unrestricted free agent.

Cash flows: As Jason noted, this is where Luck really got a better deal than any other quarterback has thus far. By 2019, Luck will earn nearly $80M in salary, which is close to the $86M he would receive under the three-year franchise tag scenario.

What this means for Miller is that he definitely wants to get the cash flow in the first three years to be close to what the Broncos would pay him by using the franchise tag three straight years. In Miller’s case, the franchise tag for him over three years amounts to $55.4M. Given that Luck’s salary falls about $6M shy of the tag over three years, some might think that would mean Miller might expect slightly more than $49M in total guarantees, although that comes in at much less than what Cox received.

Given that Miller has reportedly asked for $70M in total guarantees, and keeping in mind that’s not likely a hard demand but a negotiating tactic, I would expect his total guarantees to be closer to what Dareus received. For example, the Broncos might be able to work with $59M in total guarantees with $45M fully guaranteed upon signing. Or they could go slightly higher on the total guarantees in exchange for going slightly lower on the full guarantees.

I continue to believe that Miller and the Broncos will come to terms and, in the end, he will get an effective three-year deal with full guarantees upon signing that exceed every defensive player except Suh, with total guarantees that may not reach Cox’s number but still ensure him a cash flow that at least puts him near what he would get under the three-year franchise tag scenario.

I will try to put up a proposed contract for Miller in the coming days.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.