Despite a report to the contrary, it does not appear the Broncos’ new general manager has decided on a course of action with Von Miller. 9News’ Mike Klis has reported that George Paton and the Broncos haven’t so much as reached out to Miller or Kareem Jackson about their team options. Klis went on to explain how the Broncos have what amounts to four options with their future Hall of Fame edge rusher.
Paton's options on Von's option to guar $7M of $18M pay in '21:— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) February 17, 2021
1. Restructure to reduce $18M. Would likely include extension at reduced avg. salary.
2. Pick up $7M option; play out final yr at $18M
3. Pick up $7M option; try to trade him
4. Decline option; release him.#9sports https://t.co/3Qq63WFqDp
With the recent report from NFL Network’s James Palmer that the Broncos will “aggressively” pursue available top tier quarterbacks around the league, it’s worth noting that the decisions on Miller and Jackson won’t happen in a vacuum. If nothing else, the salary cap makes it impossible since NFL teams have a finite amount of cap space. There’s also reason to believe that the decisions on Miller and Jackson could carry with it a clear hint towards Paton’s plan at quarterback. This shouldn’t be overlooked, as the organization and team-friendly reporters will continue to vocally support Drew Lock until a clear alternative is brought in. It’s prudent to do so, if only because he’s the obvious fallback if Paton’s pursuits turn up empty.
The decision on Jackson probably boils down to picking up his contract for 2021 or moving on to create an additional $10 million in cap space. While Jackson played better than he gets credit for last season, it’s hard to imagine Paton will look to extend a soon-to-be 33-year-old safety before the season begins. With the current lack of depth behind Jackson, it would likely hurt the Broncos’ odds at the Super Bowl if no comparable replacement is added in free agency. This suggests pushing Jackson out the door would serve as a signal that the Broncos are out of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes.
The Von Miller scenarios are more murky because of his injury, cap hit, and presence as the last member of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 team who didn’t kick a football. The investigation hanging over Miller only serves to complicate the decision further. This is probably obvious, but I’m not a lawyer and don’t play one on television. Instead of speculating on a legal situation I know little about, I prefer to stay between the lines as of now and this much is clear: the 2021 Broncos are a better team with a healthy Von Miller on their roster. The four options Klis laid out can be boiled down into what amounts to two decisions.
- Keep Von Miller for 2021 and possibly beyond.
- Move on from Von Miller.
Bradley Chubb made the Pro Bowl with 7.5 sacks to go with 57 individual pressures per @SportsInfo_SIS charting.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 17, 2021
During his "down" year Von Miller had 8 sacks and 63 pressures per SIS charting.
If he can get back to something resembling that, he's still an elite player.
Given Deshaun Watson’s no-trade clause, the likely competition for his services, and how his contract could neatly fit onto the 2021 payroll with Miller’s $22,125,000 cap number, it’s fair to surmise the Broncos aren’t stealing a star QB from the Texans without Von Miller. What’s less clear is if they’ll need him in orange and blue, as Miller could be an appealing chip in any trade talks with Houston.
Paton’s decision on Miller and Jackson could also cast a ripple effect in the unlikely event Dak Prescott enters free agency. He’s going to command top of the quarterback market money and the Broncos would need to get creative with Prescott’s contract structure if they’re operating with just $31,753,340 in cap space. Dumping both defenders would more than double that amount and would be enough to pay Dak to fill out the roster. A Miller extension could provide a similar road forward, as it would lower his 2021 cap hit.
It’s pertinent to mention that declining the team options for both Miller and Jackson could be a sign that Paton is willing to risk a step back from last year’s 5-11 in order to build a foundation for future success. At his introductory press conference, the Broncos’ general manager said, “there will be no shortcuts.” Moving on without both veterans while doing little at quarterback beyond a backup to Drew Lock probably means the Broncos aren’t a playoff contender this year. Personally, I hope Vic Fangio gets a fair shot at 2022 if the Broncos go this route.
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“They’ve been rumored to be talking to a lot of teams about QB’s. I thought they were going to make a trade last week for a QB & one of the teams backed out. I think the whole conversation about Drew Lock being the guy is over”
“Football is not like basketball where you can get a superstar and he can take you far,” Atwater noted, pointing out that the Bucs and Tom Brady were an exception because Tampa Bay already had most of the pieces there. “We still need to add some pieces to the puzzle, so we can’t give up that much.”
And if it’s going to cost a lot in the draft, Atwater is still a no-go. “If it’s going to cost two, three first-rounders, I’m out, I’m out,” he said.
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“We told him quite frankly we have to look at this current situation” Colbert said, per a team transcript.
Roethlisberger is due to count $41.25 million against the Steelers’ salary cap under his current contract. Pittsburgh brass has previously noted that something would need to be done with the QB’s contract to remain on the roster. Big Ben has sounded amicable to finding a solution that allows him to stay with the Steelers QB for an 18th season. Given Colbert’s deliberate language, it’s possible the Steelers are preparing to move on.
“As we sit here today,” Colbert said. “Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
The best move, assuming the Steelers keep Roethlisberger, would be to work out in advance a series of tentative agreements based on the final cap number, with different salaries or restructurings if it’s $175 million (it can be no lower), $176 million, $177 million, $178 million, and so on, all the way to the 2020 number of $198.2 million. Then, once the cap is set, Ben’s deal gets re-done based on the predetermined revision to the contract. That apparently hasn’t happened. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the Steelers are simply looking for the right way to move on from Roethlisberger, without being perceived as the villain.
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Because Prescott earned $31.4 million under the franchise tag in 2020, he’ll be entitled to a 20-percent raise if tagged again in 2021. That equates to $37.68 million. With the cap expected to drop in 2021 — possibly all the way to $180 million — that’s a lot to dedicate to the starting quarterback. Indeed, if the cap lands at $180 million, Prescott will consume nearly 21 percent of it on his own.
Our guess is that Watt hasn’t experienced the crush of offers he expected, because most teams are likely reluctant to make significant commitments for 2021 without knowing what the salary cap will be. With a widespread belief that it will drop, teams won’t be able to finalize cash and/or cap budgets until they know what the limits of the cap allowance will be.