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Signing Demaryius Thomas gives Broncos freedom to tag Von Miller in 2016

Denver may use their franchise tag on Von Miller next offseason.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos used their 2015 franchise tag on receiver Demaryius Thomas earlier this offseason.

But Thomas will not have to play on the tag this season after signing a five-year, $70 million deal with the team on Wednesday. With Thomas locked up, all attention is now on linebacker Von Miller.

Miller, a three-time Pro Bowler, will be a free agent next offseason.

Many expect that Justin Houston's deal with Kansas City has set the market for outside linebackers. Miller will be seeking numbers close to — if not higher than — Houston's next offseason.

But as I pointed out on KMet Radio on Thursday, the Broncos do not have to give Miller a long-term deal in 2016.

Thomas's deal gives Denver the freedom to use their franchise tag on a different player next offseason. Miller will be a prime candidate to be tagged.

Miller is one of the most talented young defenders in the league, but if he is not as productive this season as Denver would like him to be, or if he has any more off-the-field issues, Denver may not want to commit to him long-term.

The franchise tag for linebackers this offseason was $13.195 million (it should be a little more than that in 2016). Houston's new deal averages over $16.8 million per season.

If Miller stays clean off the field and stays productive on the field, he'll deserve a multi-year deal. But with the franchise tag available, Denver will have no rush to extend him.

Stay out of trouble, Von.