clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Von Miller contract: What would a fair deal for both sides look like?

New, comments
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Guess what, fellow Broncos fans?  Yep, I've got another fake, hypothetical deal for Von Miller and the Broncos I've decided to turn into an MHR post for the sake of discussion and potential relief from NFL off season football withdrawal and boredom.

This will be my 3rd (and possibly final; not a promise) attempt at coming up with an overall contract structure that MIGHT be acceptable to both sides that I will submit for possible publication, but I've actually put together more sets of numbers than you'll ever see.  My first attempt at structuring a long term deal for Von proved to be naive, woefully under priced in the competitive talent market that is today's NFL, and also much too influenced by the orange or beer colored Kool-Aid I was drinking at the time.  Since that time, Von went on a QB terrorizing run for the ages through last season's playoffs, and earned a well deserved Super Bowl MVP award.  His price went up.

In more recent history, it has been reported that the Broncos allegedly offered a 6 year contract potentially worth a total of $114.5M that included something in the vicinity of $38M in initially fully guaranteed money, with about another $20M fully guaranteeing early in the 2018 League Season.

We all know that Von didn't take kindly to that offer, considering it woefully inadequate, possibly disrespectful, and going so far as to remove Elway from a photo on his Instagram account showing some of the Broncos enjoying their Super Bowl victory visit to Washington.

So I came up with another version of a hypothetical deal for Von that topped Elway's alleged offer, and had more research behind it to allow me to call it a contract that would make Von "the indisputably highest paid defensive player in the NFL," which I called "Version 2.0" (going with a much too "cutesie" Windows theme).

Guess what?  That one probably won't fly with Von either because it doesn't address his REAL concerns, especially in light of Fletcher Cox's new deal.  I'm not going to use the Iggles as a shining example of how to construct rosters, or contracts, or manage salary caps, but taking a look at the available details of that contract gave me a clue about a new approach to a contract structure for Von that might satisfy his concerns without putting the Broncos at an unacceptably high risk for future "cap hell" from the deal.

Based on all the reported rumors, leaks, Instagrams, tweets, and all that, here's where I think the BIG problem between Von and the Broncos lies.  It's not about the total possible money, or the total possible "guaranteed" money.  It's ALL about contract structure, and when allegedly "guaranteed" money is really GUARANTEED money.  Von wants MOAR fully GUARANTEED money up front, along with MOAR money that becomes fully GUARANTEED earlier in the contract.  On the other hand, the Broncos would prefer to be able to bail out of the contract in 2 or 3 years if the deal goes south for them or if their priorities change, without incurring cap crippling dead money.  I see both sides.  There MUST be a compromise acceptable to both sides for a long term deal to happen.

In case you haven't figured this out by now (disclaimer/confession time), I think Von Miller is a special talent, and a big time difference maker for the Broncos, and if they lose him, the defense just won't be the same.  It might still be decent, but probably not ELITE.  If the Broncos are going to have a realistic chance of defending their Super Bowl Championship, or at least be a serious and competitive contender, they need to have an ELITE defense, or as close to ELITE as they can get, and they won't have that without Von.  The offense is a work in progress, and at this point we can all hope it will be at least "serviceable,"  but I"m not counting on "the work in progress offense"  to make the Broncos serious, competitive contenders for greatness in 2016, or 2017 either for that matter.  Are you? Is anybody?

Before I get into the boring hypothetical numbers and stuff,  there is another point I'm going to try to make, and it's about QBs, and the kind of money they can potentially make.  Like many Broncos fans, I was a bit bummed out about the fact that the supposed "heir apparent" to the starting QB role for the Broncos (Brent Lobster or Brock Ostrich, or whatever his name is, I can't seem to remember) moved on in free agency.

But here's a little food for thought.  The Broncos' former inexperienced and largely unproven backup QB got a 4 year contract with a total potential value of $72M, so worth a possible $18M per year over that 4 years. That contract also fully guaranteed him $37M per year over 2 years, so potentially $18.5M/year. So, what if the Broncos thought they had to make a decision between keeping "what's his name" and Von (and they may have) for roughly comparable cap hits?  Did they make the right one?  For good or ill, the choice they may have made, and what happened after that means the Broncos have cap friendly options at QB this year, and quite possibly for several future years down the line as well.

That's cap space the Broncos COULD use to keep Von "in the fold" if they're so inclined.  As of the current CBA, there is nothing that requires a team to allot a higher % of their cap space to proven or potential "franchise" QBs than to players at other positions.  I don't have a problem with that, but I've seen comments on other threads that tell me that some people do.

At this point I'm not going to try to argue with them since that could and probably would devolve into arguments about politics and economics I'm not attempting to address or stir "shiz" with in this post.  I'm merely trying to come up with a contract structure that finds the middle ground between Von's wants and needs, and those of the Broncos so that Von will remain a Bronco for the long haul.

Overall hypothetical contract structure:

This is a 6 year contract worth a total of $114.5M for an average of $19.0833M per year.  Since it has been reported that the Broncos and Von have previously agreed on those numbers, I see no reason to change them. To simplify the math, I'm not including any workout bonuses or incentives, instead using only base salaries, a signing bonus, a roster bonus, and an option bonus.  $46M is initially fully guaranteed at signing consisting of a signing bonus of $20M which will prorate at $4M per year over the first 5 years of the contract, a 2016 base salary of $11M, and a 2017 base salary of $15M.  $64M is guaranteed for injury (the $46M that was initially guaranteed + the 2018 base salary and roster bonus).

In 2018 there is a base salary of $16M and a roster bonus of $2M.  On the 5th day of the 2017 League Year, $9M of the 2018 base salary will guarantee fully bringing the total guaranteed money to $55M.  On the 5th day of the 2018 League Year, the remaining $7M of the 2018 base salary and the $2M 2018 roster will guarantee fully, bringing the total guaranteed money in the contract to $64M.  2019 is an option year with an option bonus of $3M which will prorate at $1M per year over the 4th-6th years of the contract.  If it is exercised between the 5th day and the last day of the 2019 League Year, it will activate the final 2 years of the contract.  If it is not exercised, Von will become an UFA when the 2020 League Year begins, and the Broncos could possibly receive a compensatory draft pick for him in 2021.

I've tried to structure the contract in a manner that considers the long term interests of both Von and the Broncos.  As structured, the Broncos would be absolutely committed to Von for 2016 and 2017, but could potentially cut ties with him after the 2017 season if something other than injury went seriously wrong, but at a dead money cap hit of $21M for 2018 versus a $22M cap hit to keep him in 2018.  The Broncos could also part ways with Von after the 2018 season, but the dead money cap hit would still be a a relatively large $8M.  As I said earlier, the 4th year of the contract is an option year.  If the Broncos don't exercise the option, the 6 year contract for $114.5M ($19.0833M average per year) would in effect become a 4 year contract for $79M ($19.75M per year). Time for a year by year breakdown.

2016:

In 2016 Von would receive a $20M signing bonus and a 2016 base salary of $11M.  The cap hit would be $15M ($4M in prorated signing bonus + the $11M in 2016 base salary.  The dead money would be the initially fully guaranteed $46M ($20M in signing bonus + $11M in 2016 base salary + $15M in 2017 base salary).

2017:

In 2017 Von would receive a 2017 base salary of $15M.  The cap hit would be $19M ($4M in prorated signing bonus + $15M in 2017 base salary).  If Von were released prior to the 5th day of the 2017 League Year, the dead money would be $31M ($16M in remaining prorated signing bonus + the $15M 2017 base salary).  If Von were released after the 5th day of the 2017 League Year, the dead money would increase to $40M since $9M of the 2018 base salary would have guaranteed.

2018:

In 2018 Von would receive a 2018 base salary of $16M and a 2018 roster bonus of $2M.  The cap hit would be $22M ($4M in prorated signing bonus + the $16M in 2018 base salary + the $2M in 2018 roster bonus).  If Von were released before the 5th day of the 2018 League Year, the dead money would be $21M ($12M in remaining prorated signing bonus + $9M of the 2018 base salary that fully guaranteed in 2017).  If Von were released after the 5th day of the 2018 League Year, the dead money would be $30M (the remaining $7M in 2018 base salary and the $2M in 2018 roster bonus would have fully guaranteed).

2019:

2019 is the option year with a $3M option bonus that prorates at $1M per year over the remaining 3 years of the contract. Von would receive $15M in 2019 base salary, and he could receive the $3M option bonus as well.  The cap hit would be $20M ($4M in prorated signing bonus + $15M in 2019 base salary + $1M in prorated option bonus).  If Von were released prior to exercising the option, the dead money would be $8M (the remainder of the prorated signing bonus).  If he were released after the option was exercised, the dead money would be $11M.

2020:

If Von is still on the roster at the beginning of the 2020 League Year, the option had to have been exercised.  If it wasn't, the $1M of the option bonus that counted against the 2019 cap would be added back to the 2020 cap, Von could walk away as an UFA, and the Broncos could potentially receive a 2021 compensatory draft pick for him.  But if the option got exercised, Von would receive $16M in 2020 base salary.  The cap hit would be $21M ($4M in prorated signing bonus + $16M in 2020 base salary + $1M in prorated option bonus).  The dead money would be $6M (the last $4M chunk of prorated signing bonus + the remaining $2M in prorated option bonus).

2021:

Von would receive $16.5M in 2021 base salary.  The cap hit would be $17.5M ($16.5M in 2021 base salary + the remaining $1M in prorated option bonus).  The dead money would be $1M (the last $1M of the prorated signing bonus).

Summary before obligatory poll:

This is a hypothetical contract structure for a 6 year $114.5M deal ($19.0833 average per year) for Von Miller.  $46M is initially fully guaranteed at signing.  $64M is initially guaranteed for injury, with $9M of it guaranteeing fully on the 5th day of the 2017 League Year (the 2nd year of the contract), and another $9M of it guaranteeing on the 5th day of the 2018 League Year (the 3rd year of the contract).  In reality, as written, there is no new guaranteed money after the 3rd year, although if the option is exercised before the end of year 4, another $3M will guarantee.