Even for a hypothetical contract, I decided to look at numbers from a couple of actual contracts, and factor in tendencies from previous contracts done under John Elway in order to establish some working parameters so it wouldn't look like I just pulled numbers out of a body orifice, even though I kinda did, and any resemblance of my hypothetical contract to the one Von actually gets will be purely coincidental. In order to keep the math simple, I decided to leave out work out bonuses and other incentives, using only a signing bonus, base salaries, and roster bonuses. I also did not attempt to structure my hypothetical in a way to maximize 2016 cap space, or to seriously consider the impact of my hypothetical on the Broncos' salary cap in future years like the real capologists are likely trying to do. That's enough disclaimers: On with the hypothetical.
The 2 actual contracts I looked at, both signed in 2015, were Ndamukong Suh's and Justin Houston's. I looked at Suh's contract because he is currently the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, and has the most guaranteed money. I looked at Houston's contract because he is currently the second highest paid defensive player in the NFL, and the highest paid linebacker after being franchise tagged in 2015. So I decided to sandwich Von's total potential money in between those 2 contracts, but to barely beat the amount of guaranteed money in Suh's contract in order to give Von bragging rights for getting the highest amount of guaranteed money for any defensive player. Suh got a 6 year contract for $114.375M ($19.0625M per year average) with $59.955M fully guaranteed. Houston got a 6 year contract for $101M ($16.833M per year average) with $52.5M "guaranteed," of which only $32.5M was initially fully guaranteed. I decided that in my hypothetical contract for Von, a 6 year deal for $106M ($17.667M average per year, and beats Houston's total by $5M) with $60M fully guaranteed (beats Suh's guarantee by a whopping $45K) would be my target numbers.
On with my Elway tendency parameters. Elway tends to not use huge signing bonuses, even though they prorate, because they can potentially lead to a huge dead money cap hit late in the contract if a reason to part with the player arises. Instead, he prefers to use strategically placed roster bonuses relatively early in a contract, and to get all the guaranteed money paid out during the first few years of the contract. When he has franchise tagged players in the past, he has also tended to keep the first year cap hit in the neighborhood of the cost of the franchise tag. The estimated cost of a franchise tag for a linebacker in 2016 is $14.1M. I decided to make Von's 2016 cap hit just a little lower than that since 2016 cap space is tight, so went with $13M.
On with the hypothetical: 6 years, $106M total potential ($17.667M per year average) with $60M fully guaranteed, including a $15M signing bonus that would prorate at $3M per year over the first 5 years of the contract. On to the year by year breakdown:
2016: Von would receive a $15M signing bonus, and a fully guaranteed $10M salary. The cap hit would be $13M. The dead money would be $60M.
2017: Von would receive a $12M guaranteed salary and a $5M guaranteed roster bonus. The cap hit would be $20M. The dead money would be $47M.
2018: Von would receive a $13M guaranteed salary and a $5M guaranteed roster bonus. The cap hit would be $21M. The dead money would be $27M. After this season, the entire guaranteed $60M will have been paid out ($35M in salaries + $15M in signing bonus + $10M in roster bonuses).
2019: Von would receive a $14M salary. The cap hit would be $17M. The dead money would be $6M.
2020: Von would receive a $15M salary. The cap hit would be $18M. The dead money would be $3M.
2021: Von would receive a $17M salary. The cap hit would be $17M.. The dead money would be zero. To check my math, I'm going to add up all the money paid out to Von under the terms of this hypothetical contract to make sure it adds up to $106M. $15M in signing bonus + $10M in roster bonuses + $10M + $12M + $13M +$14M + $15M + $17M in salaries = $106M.
Done. Time to let me know what you think in the comments and the poll.