The only non-specialist remaining from the Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning team, Von Miller is going into a contract year and doing so after missing the 2020 season. The superstar pass rusher may be on somewhat unstable ground with the Broncos.
The final season of Miller’s six-year, $114.5MM contract doubles as a club option. New GM George Paton has until the final day of the 2020 league year — March 16 — to decide on picking up that option, and Mike Klis of 9News notes the recently arrived executive has yet to contact the future Hall of Famer’s camp on this topic (Twitter link).
Miller is due to make $17.5MM in base salary next season, with a 2018 contract restructure bumping his 2021 cap number up to $22.13MM. While Miller was tethered to a $25.6MM cap number last year, when he missed the season because of a severe ankle injury, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes that the Broncos will not bring him back under his current contract.
We heard last month the Broncos were expected to ask their all-time sack leader to return at a lower rate, and they remain on this course. Should the Broncos release Miller, they would create $18MM in cap space. But they would be forced to replace one of the best players in franchise history.
When Miller signed this contract in 2016, the $19.1MM-AAV figure established a new benchmark for defensive players. It took more than two years for a player to exceed it, which Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack did in the same week. Joey Bosa‘s $27MM-per-year deal far eclipses Miller’s pact, with the cap having risen by more than $40MM in between those accords being signed. But the Broncos are now under new management, though John Elway remains with the team in a non-GM role.
The Broncos saw Miller replacement Malik Reed emerge with eight sacks and 17 QB hits last season, joining Pro Bowler Bradley Chubb (7.5, 19) in anchoring the team’s pass rush. Vic Fangio has only coached four games with Miller and Chubb in the lineup together, limiting his defenses. However, Denver placed 13th in defensive DVOA in both the 2019 and ’20 seasons.
While the Broncos convinced DeMarcus Ware to take a pay cut in 2016, a more eventful sequence unfolded the previous time they asked a cornerstone pass rusher to do so. That 2013 process featured a fax machine play a key role in Elvis Dumervil‘s departure. It will be interesting to see how the Miller process unfolds. The former Super Bowl MVP would certainly generate considerable interest were he to decline a pay cut and have a path to free agency.