Von Miller

Broncos GM On Trades, Draft, Free Agency

Since George Paton took over as Broncos GM last year, the team traded the previous regime’s highest-profile player and now has a new one. Both transactions came via blockbuster trades, with the capital acquired from the first helping the Broncos pull off the second.

Denver dealt Von Miller to Los Angeles for second- and third-round 2022 picks. That ended up being a win-win-win deal, with the Rams claiming a Super Bowl title, the Broncos having enough draft picks to feel comfortable parting with a big haul for Russell Wilson, and Miller’s post-trade rebound enticing the Bills to submit a strong free agency offer. The Broncos’ years-long quarterback issue hovered at the root of the Miller trade.

I love Von, but we knew we weren’t good enough with Von to get to where we needed to go at that point,” Paton said via The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (subscription required). “I knew in the next year or two we needed to get a quarterback. We needed to break through, [be it] trading up in the draft or via trade; free agency, you’re probably not going to get your franchise guy. So we were just going to keep accumulating picks until we got a quarterback. It’s hard to win if you don’t get that guy.”

Paton successfully filled one of the NFL’s longest-standing needs by acquiring Wilson for a package that included three players, two first-round picks, two second-rounders and a fifth. The Miller trade, however, leaves the Broncos with three Day 2 picks this year. Without first-rounders this year and next, the second day of this year’s draft figures to be quite important for a Denver team that will have a franchise-quarterback salary on its books in the not-too-distant future.

Denver, which had started 11 quarterbacks since Peyton Manning‘s retirement, has not carried a notable QB salary on its books since Joe Flacco‘s in 2019. Wilson is set to count just $24MM against the Broncos’ cap this season. While an extension is fully expected to commence by the 2023 season, it is not yet certain a new deal will be in place this year.

“You build a different way,” Paton said of how the Broncos will need to construct future rosters. “You aren’t going to go on a spending splurge every free agency; you just can’t. The model doesn’t work like that. We realize — we had all of these talks about how, three years down the road, how this impacts us.

“Do we have to hit on picks? Yeah. Everyone has to hit on their picks. But the stakes are higher. You gotta hit on the sixth-rounder, the seventh-round safety or else the model doesn’t work. We embrace the challenge just as we embrace the opportunity to have a guy like Russ.”

Paton’s first Broncos draft included cornerstones like Patrick Surtain and Javonte Williams, along with rookie-year contributors in offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz (Round 3), safety Caden Sterns (Round 5), linebacker Baron Browning (Round 3) and edge rusher Jonathon Cooper (Round 7). Nathaniel Hackett has Meinerz, who became a starter after a midseason Graham Glasgow injury, installed as the team’s starting right guard. With a Wilson extension expected to be in the $50MM-per-year ballpark on the horizon, the Broncos will need more low-cost contributors in this draft.

NFC West Notes: Rams, Penny, Lock, 49ers

Before the Bills swooped in with an awe-inspiring contract, the Rams expected to re-sign Von Miller. According to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the Rams were flexible with the AAV of Miller’s deal and were generally offering around $14MM to $16MM per season.

The Rams “reiterated their commitment” to the linebacker during negotiations, while Miller made it a priority to work things out with the Super Bowl-winning organization. Of course, the money had to be right, but Rodrigue writes that the Rams were confident in their offer. However, the Bills emerged with a big-money offer that was ultimately too good to refuse.

Rodrigue also notes that Miller’s departure will ultimately net the organization a compensation pick, but because of the player’s tenure in the NFL, the organization can’t expect higher than a fifth-round selection.

More notes out of the NFC West…

  • Rashaad Penny told the media that it was a “no brainer” to re-sign with the Seahawks (per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times on Twitter). The running back also confirmed that he turned down offers for more money in order to stay in Seattle. The former first-round pick inked a one-year, $5.75MM deal to stick with the Seahawks. This past season, Penny totaled 797 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns.
  • Pete Carroll seems to have some optimism for quarterback Drew Lock, telling reporters that the Seahawks are “focused on the things Drew Lock did well in Denver and not the times he struggled,” with the coach adding that “we think we see something that could be really special” (per Condotta on Twitter).
  • While the organization isn’t necessarily counting on Lock, the organization has high hopes for the QB. “We’ll continue to explore options,” said GM John Schneider (via ESPN’s Brady Henderson), “but we have a ton of faith in Drew. We’re excited about it. We’re excited about a change of scenery for him. I know a couple of my buddies were trying to acquire him all last spring and into the fall. He’s a guy that, in my opinion, the media has beat down a little bit. We’re excited to get him into our culture with our coaching staff, and we’ll continue to look for guys to compete with him.”
  • Jimmy Garoppolo‘s shoulder surgery earlier this month went “as expected,” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). With the shoulder surgery taking place in early March, the 49ers are hoping the QB will be back on the field before training camp. Of course, the only question remaining is whether Garoppolo will be attending training camp with the 49ers or another team.

Contract Details: Miller, Robinson, Reddick, Mariota, Jensen, Collins, Brown, Norwell

Here are the latest details from contracts recently agreed to across the league, starting with the Bills’ big-ticket deal for a future Hall of Fame edge rusher:

  • Von Miller, LB (Bills): Six years, $120MM. Miller’s deal includes $51.44MM guaranteed. The Bills will keep Miller’s early base salaries low; he is tied to $1.1MM (2022) and $1.3MM (’23) salaries, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Miller has a $13.34MM roster bonus due in 2023, and Albert Breer of SI.com tweets his deal includes $50MM over the first two years. His $17.1MM, $19.6MM and $29.6MM salaries from 2025-27 are nonguaranteed.
  • Allen Robinson, WR (Rams): Three years, $46.5MM. Robinson is attached to guaranteed base salaries of $1.5MM and $10MM in 2022 and ’23, respectively, per Wilson (on Twitter). The contract includes a $5.75MM roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2024 league year. If Robinson surpasses 2,200 receiving yards in the regular season and playoffs during the 2022 or ’23 seasons, Wilson adds his 2024 year will void (Twitter link). Only Cooper Kupp has accomplished that feat in a season.
  • Haason Reddick, DE (Eagles): Three years, $45MM. Reddick, who is guaranteed $30MM, is tethered to base salaries of just $1MM and $1.1MM in 2022 and 2023, per Wilson (on Twitter). His $13.75MM 2024 salary is nonguaranteed. The Eagles tacked three void years onto the deal for cap purposes. Reddick will collect a $13.7MM roster bonus in 2023.
  • Ryan Jensen, C (Buccaneers): Three years, $39MM. Jensen’s deal includes $26.5MM guaranteed. The Bucs center is tied to a $1.5MM base salary in 2022 and a $12.5MM base in 2023, Wilson tweets. Jensen’s 2023 salary is partially guaranteed at signing; it will become fully guaranteed if he is on Tampa Bay’s roster by Day 5 of the 2023 league year. A $1.5MM 2024 roster bonus resides in this deal as well. The Bucs included two void years here for cap purposes.
  • La’el Collins, T (Bengals): Three years, $30MM. The contract is closer to a two-year, $20MM pact, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, with Year 3 being included for cap purposes (Twitter link). It appears Cincinnati has dipped into the void-year realm, though is not clear just yet how this contract is structured.
  • Marcus Mariota, QB (Falcons): Two years, $18.75MM. This deal veers closer to a one-year pact. Mariota is due $6.75MM in 2022, but NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero notes (on Twitter) a $12MM 2023 option is included in this contract. A key point for Mariota’s Atlanta future will arrive on Day 5 of the 2023 league year, when a $3MM roster bonus is due.
  • Trent Brown, T (Patriots): Two years, $13MM. Brown will see $4MM guaranteed, Pelissero tweets. The veteran right tackle can earn up to $22MM on the contract.
  • Andrew Norwell, G (Commanders): Two years, $10MM. Norwell will collect $5.7MM guaranteed, Wilson tweets. He is set to earn $1.2MM and $3.54MM in base salary, with Wilson adding Washington added three void years onto this deal.

Bills, Von Miller Agree To Deal

A surprise team emerged victorious in the Von Miller sweepstakes. The decorated edge rusher is set to sign with the Bills, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Bills have announced the signing.

Linked to the Cowboys, Rams and Browns as the legal tampering period wound down, Miller is set to provide a big boost to the Bills’ edge-rushing corps next season. The Bills convinced the future Hall of Famer with a monster offer. Miller is heading to Buffalo on a six-year deal worth $120MM, Rapoport adds (on Twitter).

This contract is not a true $20MM-per-year accord, with Rapoport noting the deal averages $17.5MM across its first four seasons (Twitter link). That said, Buffalo will still pay up to land one of the top pass rushers in NFL history. It includes $51.5MM fully guaranteed (including $45MM at signing), Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, and Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes (on Twitter) it will pay $53MM by 2023.

The edge rusher market began to move Tuesday, when the Broncos poached Randy Gregory from the Cowboys. Gregory’s last-minute switch took away one of Miller’s options, after the 11-year Bronco teased a reunion. The Rams and Cowboys continued to pursue Miller, with Rapoport adding Sean McVay spent Wednesday attempting to convince him to stay in L.A. (Twitter link). But the Bills spent Wednesday wooing Miller as well. As a result, the Bills secured one of the biggest free agency victories in franchise history.

Miller, 33 next week, missed the entire 2020 season and suffered a midseason injury to close out his Broncos tenure last year. But he bolstered his value considerably with the Rams, recording nine sacks across the team’s final eight games — including two in Super Bowl LVI — alongside Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd. The Rams were viewed as the favorites earlier Wednesday, and it will be interesting to learn how far they were willing to go to keep Miller.

Los Angeles will pick up a 2023 compensatory pick for losing Miller, for whom they sent second- and third-rounders. The rental worked out, but the Bills giving Miller his second $100MM-plus contract weakens Los Angeles’ pass rush. Miller is the first defensive player in NFL history to sign two $100MM pacts, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Although Miller is going into his 12th season, he has said he wants to play several more years. He has mentioned Bruce Smith‘s sack record as a goal. While that figure (200) will be difficult for the former No. 2 overall pick to reach, Miller (115.5) will chase it in the same city Smith played. He stands to help a Bills team that has struggled to assemble a consistent edge rush in recent years. The Bills will pair Miller with recent high draft choices Gregory Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa. Veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison hit free agency today.

This also marks yet another NFC-to-AFC transaction on the edge rusher circuit. Gregory, Miller, Chandler Jones, Za’Darius Smith and Khalil Mack are now in the AFC, which features some oft-discussed quarterbacks as well. The Bills will fit Miller’s contract onto a payroll that includes Josh Allen‘s $43MM-per-year pact. A Stefon Diggs extension figures to be on the radar in 2022 as well.

Rams In Driver’s Seat For Von Miller?

Von Miller has not committed to a team during his first free agency bid, but the Rams look to have moved into pole position for the future Hall of Fame pass rusher.

The expectation is Miller will stay with the Rams, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com noting teams are under the impression this is how the Miller process will conclude (Twitter link). Other teams are still pursuing the 11-year veteran, but the Rams appear to have the inside track.

Dallas and Cleveland have also attempted to land Miller this week. Both teams’ 2021 sidekick rushers — Randy Gregory and Jadeveon Clowney, respectively — are either unsigned (Clowney) or with another team now (Gregory). Gregory was on the verge of returning to the Cowboys, but an 11th-hour snafu sent him to the Broncos. The Cowboys are not especially confident they will beat out the Rams for Miller, Jane Slater of NFL.com adds (on Twitter). The Cowboys have not made Miller an offer, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweets.

Miller, 33 next week, was connected to going back to Denver as well. The team’s successful pursuit of Gregory nixed that path. Prior to any Broncos-reunion talk or a hope of returning to his native Dallas, Miller had said he wanted to stay in Los Angeles. The All-Decade edge rusher notched nine sacks in the Rams’ final eight games last season.

The Rams have Leonard Floyd signed to a long-term deal and may well need to give Aaron Donald a raise soon. Miller is expected to command close to $20MM annually. While that is a sizable chunk of cash to commit to pass rushers, the Rams have not shied away from making splashy moves work since relocating to L.A.

Browns Join Cowboys, Rams In Mix For Von Miller

Count the Browns as a third team in the hunt for Von Miller, joining the Cowboys and Rams. Cleveland, which has seen Jadeveon Clowney reach free agency, is interested in signing the future Hall of Fame edge rusher, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com reports.

This market has heated to the point a $16MM-per-year deal will be considered the low end, with Wilson adding it could reach the point of a $20MM-AAV contract. Miller played out his six-year, $114.1MM Broncos-constructed deal in Los Angeles but indicated he would explore free agency for the first time.

The Rams have made their interest known for weeks, but the Cowboys have dived into this market after losing Randy Gregory to the Broncos at the final hour. Miller previously said he wanted to return to L.A., and a report earlier Tuesday indicated the Dallas-area native is interested in playing for his hometown team. The Browns represent a wild card here.

Cleveland already rosters one of the highest-paid defensive players, having given Myles Garrett a $25MM-per-year pact in 2020. Miller would mark a considerable pass-rushing upgrade on Clowney, who is more of an all-around defender than an elite sack artist. Miller, 33 next week, is perhaps this generation’s best pass rusher. He again showed those chops to close out his contract year, registering nine sacks in the Rams’ final eight games to help the franchise to its second Super Bowl title.

Cap space-wise, the Cowboys have created enough in recent days to lead the way with $28MM-plus. The Browns hold nearly $20MM, while the Rams possess … less money. A day away from the 2022 league year, Los Angeles still sits more than $20MM over the cap.

Latest On Randy Gregory’s FA Decision, Cowboys’ Von Miller Interest

Linked to Chandler Jones or a Von Miller reunion, the Broncos instead went with a younger pass rusher. They gave Randy Gregory a five-year, $70MM deal that includes $28MM guaranteed. Those terms were also present in the Cowboys’ offer, one it appeared Gregory was prepared to accept earlier Tuesday.

Gregory, 29, had initially agreed to join the Broncos, but Mike Garafolo of NFL.com notes the veteran edge rusher told the Cowboys he would stay if the team matched Denver’s offer (video link). That explains the identical terms. One part in the Cowboys’ proposal looks to have caused Gregory’s second course change.

The Cowboys included language in their contract indicating guaranteed money could be voided or withheld based on fines or a suspension, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. This provision irked Gregory’s camp, with Jane Slater of NFL.com adding the defensive end felt it was inserted “at the 11th hour” (Twitter link). Such a clause is not present in Gregory’s Denver deal, per Slater.

This language was present in Gregory’s rookie contract, Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets, but Gregory was incensed at the inclusion this time around. Upon hearing the Cowboys planned to include a forfeiture clause, Gregory apparently responded, “F*** them,” Werder tweets.

However, some Cowboys pushback emerged. The Cowboys, understandably, are not happy with how this all went down, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link). The Cowboys are believed to have included this forfeiture language in every player’s deal save for Dak Prescott, Hill adds, with Werder noting this is not a Cowboys-specific clause (Twitter links).

Suspensions frequently cause players’ guarantees to void, and Slater adds the Cowboys were open to adjusting the language (Twitter link). The difference here is a Cowboys clause that would void Gregory’s guarantees in the event of a fine, something Gregory’s agent (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) said he had not seen “in 30 years” in the business. Once the hiccup emerged, Gregory’s agent gave the Cowboys a chance to remove the language. They did not, Florio adds, noting that Jerry Jones involved himself after it became clear the Cowboys were on the verge of losing Gregory.

Contracts cannot be made official for free agents who change teams until the new league year begins Wednesday afternoon, but it appears Gregory is headed out of town after seven rocky years in Dallas. Gregory has been suspended four times, with marijuana-based issues leading to much of the trouble, Mike Klis of 9News notes (on Twitter). The NFL has relaxed its stance on weed over the past several years, and Gregory has not run into trouble since the 2010s.

The Cowboys have now set their sights on Miller, with Werder adding the team has a strong interest in bringing the Dallas-area native back home. However, this depends on Miller’s asking price. After the Super Bowl 50 MVP played a key role in the Rams’ run to Super Bowl LVI — a game in which Miller sacked Joe Burrow twice — the soon-to-be 33-year-old moved near the top of this year’s free agency crop. Although the Cowboys are believed to hold considerable appeal for Miller, they will need to pay up to secure his services. The Rams are interested in bringing back both Miller and Odell Beckham Jr.

Von Miller Interested In Joining Cowboys

The Von Miller-to-Denver smoke did not end up producing a deal, with the Broncos poaching a younger pass rusherRandy Gregory — away from the Cowboys. Dallas appears to have an opportunity to add Denver’s all-time sack leader.

Miller has a “very strong interest” in joining the Cowboys, Jane Slater of NFL.com tweets. Dallas’ agreement with Gregory falling through points to the organization being prepared to spend money on an edge rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys are open to adding Miller, Slater tweets. This is certainly a situation to monitor, with Miller being one of the top players available.

A Dallas-area native, Miller has a home near the Cowboys’ facility. The Texas A&M alum was previously connected to the Chargers and Broncos, but both have filled their edge slots. The Rams entered the tampering period interested in re-signing Miller. It appears they have company.

The Cowboys hold far more cap space than the Rams, who are over the cap presently. Dallas gave Lawrence a new deal to drop his cap figure by more than $10MM this year, opening a door for an addition on the other edge.

Miller will turn 33 later this month but has been one of this era’s best players. The future Hall of Famer bolstered his credentials with a strong playoff run, completing a stretch of nine sacks in the Rams’ final eight games.

Broncos Expected To Pursue Pass Rushers, OL Help In Free Agency

Russell Wilson‘s impending Denver arrival positions the Broncos to be legitimate playoff contenders for the first time in six years, but the AFC West squad is expected to be active in free agency to fortify its roster around the Pro Bowl quarterback.

The Broncos are expected to target an elite pass rusher in free agency, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who also notes the team will pursue upgrades on its offensive line. Despite the Broncos taking on Wilson’s contract, they have more than $23MM in cap space. And they have been linked to reacquiring the best pass rusher in franchise history.

Von Miller has made social media overtures indicating interest in rejoining the Broncos, which would certainly make for an interesting development considering the team traded him for second- and third-round picks last year. An Aroldis Chapman-like scenario unfolding, in which the Broncos landed a strong midseason trade return and then re-signed the player, would stand to restock the team’s edge rush. Denver has Bradley Chubb‘s fifth-year option salary on its books but no other contracts of note at outside linebacker.

Miller has also been connected to staying in Los Angeles, and the Rams are confident their offer will convince Miller to stay. If the Broncos do not reacquire their all-time sack leader, La Canfora mentions Chandler Jones or Randy Gregory as options for the team. Jones, 32, is a year younger than Miller, and has been connected to the Broncos — among other teams — previously ahead of free agency. The Cardinals All-Pro bounced back after his injury-marred 2020, registering 10.5 sacks last season. Gregory will turn 30 this year, and his suspension history will certainly affect his market. But after delivering as a starter for the Cowboys last season, the former second-round pick will have a market.

Pro Football Focus ranked the Broncos’ O-line 19th last season. While four of the team’s five primary 2021 starters are under contract, only one (midseason sub Quinn Meinerz, who replaced an injured Graham Glasgow) was acquired during George Paton‘s GM stay. The Broncos are fairly committed to left tackle Garett Bolles, who signed an extension in 2020, and it would surprise if left guard Dalton Risner was not a starter in his contract year. The rest of Denver’s O-line, which again has a glaring right tackle void, should not be considered set. This year’s market is not particularly deep at right tackle, beyond injury-prone Trent Brown, so it will be interesting to see if Denver tries to fill that need on the market or with one of its three Day 2 draft choices.

Latest On Rams’ Pending Free Agents

If the Rams hope to repeat as Super Bowl champions, they face a number of key decisions in the coming days. They have money still to be shed, but a number of free agents left to re-sign. 

The biggest names amongst said free agents are Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. The former made an impact on the Rams’ defense after being traded for mid-season. He registered five sacks in eight regular season games in L.A., adding another four in the playoffs. The 32-year-old earned himself a hefty payday, regardless of where he ends up.

According to Jordan Rodrigue of The Athletic (subscription required), the Rams may be able to keep both in the fold. She writes that the team is “confident” their offer to Miller “will be enough to convince him to stay”. She adds that said proposal is thought to be worth between $14MM and $16MM per year over a span of “perhaps” two years, though that salary figure “doesn’t seem to have a hard ceiling”. The three-time All Pro has expressed an interest in staying, but he also plans to at least test the open market, which could very well include a return to Denver.

As for Beckham, Rodrigue notes that the team is staying flexible with respect to contract offers, though it does seem inevitable he will remain there, as was previously reported. She names center Brian Allen as one more significant pending free agent the Rams could try to find the money to retain.

On the other hand, there are noteworthy players who seemed destined to land deals elsewhere, in no small part as a result of the team’s preference to keep Miller and Beckham. Among those Rodrigue predicts will find new homes is defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. The 26-year-old played a career-high 69% of snaps this year, notching three sacks. Another is cornerback Darious Williams, whom she reports could land a deal valued at upwards of $10MM per season despite a down year in 2021.

Projected to be more than $20MM over the cap at this point, the Rams clearly have work to do. If all goes according to plan, however, they could still field one of the most talented teams in the NFL next year.