AFC Notes: Broncos, Pats, Von, Steelers, Jets

Mike Klis of 9News obtained a report from a non-Broncos scout who observed linebacker Von Miller nine times last season and concluded that the 27-year-old is a “Hall of Fame-caliber performer.’’ Meanwhile, former Patriots general counsel/player personnel Jack Musa told Klis that the Pats – who are known for preemptively cutting bait on stars – would shop Miller if they were in a similar situation as Denver is now.

“I’m not saying not signing Von Miller is the wrong thing to do. I’m not saying that at all,” said Musa, who was with the Patriots for a decade. “But if you don’t and you’ve moved on from him, you certainly get something from him. You don’t have him sitting out a year and improving his own negotiating leverage – that’s not something we ever experienced in New England but that’s a very real possibility in Denver.’’

The Broncos and Miller are currently in a contract-related showdown, one which they’re running out of time to resolve. If the reigning Super Bowl champions and the franchise-tagged superstar don’t reach an agreement on a long-term deal by July 15 at 4 p.m. ET, they won’t be able to negotiate again until the offseason. That would leave Miller with two options: 1. Continue sitting out in lieu of signing the franchise tender. 2. Sign it and make in the $14MM neighborhood to play this year. If Miller opts for the first choice, the Broncos wouldn’t have the ability to slap the exclusive franchise tag on him next offseason, though they could give him the non-exclusive version. However, the compensation from a team that signs Miller to an offer sheet would decrease in value by a substantial amount, going from two first-round picks to a first- and third-round selection. The Broncos hit Miller with the exclusive designation this year to stop him from trying to hammer out an accord with another team.

Elsewhere around the AFC…

  • The Browns picked up quarterback Robert Griffin III in free agency and ex-Baylor receiver Corey Coleman via the first round of the draft, but they’re nonetheless “going to be a run-oriented football team,” run game coordinator Kirby Wilson told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. As Roster Resource shows, the Browns’ top two rushers from last season – Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson – remain in the equation, and three former undrafted free agents trail behind them. Given that trio’s lack of pedigree and the fact that neither Crowell nor Johnson eclipsed 3.8 yards per carry last season, it’s not exactly the most promising group on paper. Johnson, to his credit, caught 61 passes as a rookie, leading Wilson to call the 2015 third-rounder from Miami “an ultimate weapon.”
  • The five-year, $41.9MM deal – including $8.5MM guaranteed – all-world wide receiver Antonio Brown signed in 2012 is the most team-friendly contract the Steelers have, argues Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap. Brown was behind Mike Wallace on the Steelers’ wideout pecking order at the time, but the former has since combined for a stunning 375 receptions, 5,031 yards and 31 touchdowns going back to 2013. Although Pittsburgh took a risk at the time, it now has the biggest veteran bargain in the league, Fitzgerald opines. Conversely, linebacker Lawrence Timmons‘ contract (five years, $47.8MM, $11MM guaranteed) is the Steelers’ worst. While Fitzgerald doesn’t have a problem with the value, he’s critical of the way the Steelers have handled the pact. The club has restructured it three times in a four-year span, effectively guaranteeing four of its five seasons and leaving Timmons without an incentive to accept an extension and lower his cap number – which is the most among inside linebackers this season by over $5MM.
  • Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey could have a harder time dividing touches between his top two running backs this year than he did in 2015, posits Brian Costello of the New York Post. Last season’s Jets prominently featured the duo of bruiser Chris Ivory and dual-threat option Bilal Powell, but the former is now in Jacksonville. The Jets replaced him with Matt Forte, who – like Powell – can do damage both as a rusher and pass catcher. Regardless, Costello argues that New York has a valuable player on its hands in the 27-year-old Powell, without whom it went 1-4 in 2015. As a result of his 11-game, 701-total yard, 47-catch season, the Jets re-signed Powell to a three-year, $11.25MM deal with $6MM in guarantees over the winter. Forte landed a somewhat similar contract at three years, $12MM and $8MM guaranteed.
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