Final Word On Proposed Contract For Von Miller

I had a little bit of time to put together a proposed contract for Von Miller that would give him more in fully guaranteed money and total guarantees, yet still give the Broncos a chance to get out of the deal after three years.

Before I get to it, Joel Corry broke down what he expects will happen with each of the franchise tagged players not signed to long-term deals. He expects Miller and the Broncos will reach an agreement, but I want to focus on the reported details he shared of where the Broncos’ last offer stands: $114.5M over six years, $38.5M fully guaranteed upon signing, $39.8M guaranteed over the first two years, $21.5M signing bonus, and $58M in total guarantees.

One comment I will make is that I am surprised the Broncos are going with a $21.5M signing bonus, because that would mean more than $4M will be pro-rated over the first five years of the deal. Assuming the Broncos keep him on the roster for at least three years, that would mean a dead money charge of more than $8M if he were to be released at that point. Of course, the Broncos aren’t guaranteed to part ways with Miller after three years and are more likely hoping Miller will be with the franchise for the next five years, but whether he actually collects money from the sixth year of the contract remains to be seen.

But I took a different approach to my proposed contract offer, one that would compensate Miller well for the next three years, but allow the Broncos to safely get out of the deal after three years if his performance were to decline.

The contract I have proposed would be for six years at $115M, giving Miller the highest total-value contract among all NFL defensive players. It would come with $42M fully guaranteed upon signing and $62M in total guarantees, both increases over the reported offer the Broncos made.

The breakdown of the years:

2016: $10M signing bonus and $12M base salary, which gives Miller $22M in the first-year payout. It keeps his cap number at $14M for this year.

2017: $20M fully-guaranteed base salary. This would put Miller’s cap number at $22M, but because any contract will lock Miller onto the roster for that year, I’m OK with doing this. It’s likely the Broncos will let Aqib Talib go to clear $10M in cap space and, if they pick up the option for Russell Okung, they may convert the roster bonus he is due into a signing bonus to reduce his cap charge. Even so, the Broncos should have a lot of cap space to work with, and because the players they are likely to re-sign won’t command more than $10M APY salary, they should be able to accommodate such deals.

2018: $20M salary that is guaranteed for injury only upon signing. $10M of that will come in a base salary that becomes fully guaranteed in 2017, while the remaining $10M will be paid as a roster bonus in 2018. Making half the 2018 money due fully guaranteed in 2017 protects Miller from being cut for any reason other than serious disciplinary issues. Again, the cap charge comes to $22M, but the cap should rise by that point to accommodate it. And because the Broncos will have to give Miller an effective “three years then we’ll see” contract, I’m OK with a high cap charge again.

2019: $17M in base salary, not guaranteed. His cap charge would be $19M. I would structure this year so that there is a team option that the Broncos can either pick up or decline, one that pays Miller a small portion of money as a roster bonus if picked up. I went with $6M here, with the remaining money coming in the base salary. Declining the option makes Miller an unrestricted free agent and frees $15M in cap space with a $4M dead money charge.

2020: Same as the 2019 year in terms of salary (again, not guaranteed) with the team option that pays Miller a small amount as a roster bonus. If the Broncos declined it at this point, they gain $17M in cap space with a $2M dead money charge.

2021: $19M base salary, not guaranteed. By this point, the pro-rated signing bonus no longer applies, so parting ways with Miller frees $19M in cap space.

I went with slightly less in full guarantees in exchange for giving Miller slightly more in total guarantees than he might otherwise get. I would leave open the possibility of incentives for Miller in the first three years that could give him an extra $3M over that period, which could push his total guarantees to $65M.

I think the Broncos should be OK in navigating the high cap charges in 2017 and 2018. Because they are counting on Paxton Lynch to become the eventual starting quarterback, he won’t count for a massive cap charge for a while. It won’t be until 2020 at the earliest that Lynch will be due for an extension, at which point the Broncos can safely get out of Miller’s contract if his play declines, freeing both cap and cash for a new contract for Lynch.

Other things to keep in mind is that the Broncos shouldn’t have to hand out massive contracts to other players whose deals are expiring. I’ve gone over a few of them before, but let’s go over them again.

2017: Emmanuel Sanders, Sylvester Williams, Kayvon Webster. None of these players are likely to have a high cap number in the first two years of the deal and both Williams and Webster should be available at lower-cost deals if they are extended.

2018: T.J. Ward is the only UFA the Broncos may want to re-sign and they might be able to keep him at a value signing similar to Sanders. Bradley Roby will likely have the fifth-year option on his rookie deal exercised. At the rate Cody Latimer has developed, he’s not likely to command top dollar if the Broncos want to extend him.

2019: Roby will be a UFA for sure and shouldn’t be too pricey. Shane Ray may have the fifth-year option on his rookie deal exercised. Only time will tell what the Broncos do with the likes of Ty Sambrailo, Max Garcia and Jeff Heuerman.

There are other players who will be considered for extensions at some point, but they won’t likely command top dollar and, for some, they may be willing to take value deals because they appreciate the Broncos taking a chance on them when other teams didn’t value them as much. Players such as Shaquil Barrett, Todd Davis, Corey Nelson, Bennie Fowler and Brandon McManus could fall into this category.

Also, I don’t believe John Elway will be aggressive in pursuing high-dollar free agents from this point forward. He did this in his first couple of years for two reasons: He wanted quality veterans on board so the Broncos could be a playoff contender and he had just started his process of building a team through the draft. Now he is at the stage where he will be more concerned with giving big contracts to players who he has drafted or have blossomed while with the Broncos, rather than luring a big-ticket free agent from another team.

In other words, it’s going to be a few years before the Broncos have to pay somebody at top-dollar level, so they should be OK doing it with Miller for a while. By carefully managing the rest of the roster, finding value in free agency, continuing to draft well and keeping an eye on hidden gems among rookie free agents, the Broncos should be able to pay Miller well without compromising the rest of the team.

ADDENDUM (Nick): Here is the contract table for Bob’s proposal:

Year Base Salary
Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Option Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2016 $12,000,000 $2,000,000 $14,000,000 $52,000,000 ($38,000,000)
2017 $20,000,000 $2,000,000 $22,000,000 $38,000,000 ($16,000,000)
2018 $10,000,000 $2,000,000 $10,000,000 $22,000,000 $16,000,000 $6,000,000
2019 $11,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $15,000,000 $4,000,000 $11,000,000
2020 $17,000,000 $2,000,000 $2,000,000 $21,000,000 $6,000,000 $15,000,000
2021 $19,000,000 $2,000,000 $21,000,000 $2,000,000 $19,000,000


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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.