The Broncos plan to use the franchise tag on linebacker Von Miller and will then look to work out a long-term deal with him, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). This news does not come as much of a surprise, as Jason Cole of Bleacher Report passed along a similar report at the end of last month, but as Miller is the best player eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason, any reports regarding his potential fate remain highly relevant.
Miller has posted double-digit sack totals in four of his first five seasons in the league. In 2013, he was suspended six games for attempting to cheat a drug test, and he tore his ACL later in the season, limiting his on-field action to just nine games and his sack total to just five. But as Rapoport observes (via Twitter), Miller has matured a great deal since he decided to hire a life coach–a decision that implies a certain degree of maturity in and of itself–and at this point, it appears as though the star pass rusher’s off-field troubles are a thing of the past.
Denver, of course, might also consider using the franchise tag on Brock Osweiler, who did enough in his first shot as a starter this season to suggest that he could be the team’s long-term answer at the quarterback position. Apparently, however, the Broncos are more confident they can work out a contract with Osweiler prior to the new league year than Miller, who would have a case to become the league’s highest-paid defensive player if he were to reach the open market. In 2015, Miller graded out as the second-best edge rusher in the league out of 110 eligible players, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required). And, unlike many elite pass rushers, Miller is not a liability in coverage, and he is terrific against the run, which only enhances his already considerable value.
The projected 2016 franchise tag value for linebackers is just north of $14MM. In negotiating a long-term deal with Denver, Miller would likely look at Justin Houston‘s recent six-year, $101MM deal with Kansas City–which included $52.5MM in guarantees–as a benchmark. Marcell Dareus, in his recent extension with the Bills, received $60MM in guarantees, a record for a defensive player that provides a reasonable target for Miller. As former NFL agent Joel Corry wrote back in November, Miller’s next contract will probably have an average annual value in the neighborhood of $18MM. Assuming the Broncos do, in fact, tag Miller, they will have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal.