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Broncos have options with Von Miller

Paton’s decision with the future Hall of Famer will give us a hint on his plans for QB this offseason.

Will Miller wear orange and blue in 2021?
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

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.

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.

  1. Keep Von Miller for 2021 and possibly beyond.
  2. Move on from Von Miller.

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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