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NFL 2022 free agent profile: Von Miller

Could the Broncos entice Von to come back?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos pass rush was pretty weak after the trade of Von Miller in 2021. The team still finished 8th in pressure rate on opposing QBs according to pro-football-reference.com, but much of that came from bringing an extra pass rusher, i.e. blitzing. Rare was it when the Broncos were able to drop seven (or eight) into coverage and get pressure on the opposing quarterback. Elite pass rushers generate pressure on about fourteen percent of their pass rush snaps. There were only sixteen players in the NFL above fourteen percent last season and Von Miller was not one of them.

That doesn’t mean that Von was not still a good pass rusher, but he was not elite in 2021. According to SISdatahub.com Von generated pressure on 13.1 percent of his pass rush snaps as a Bronco and 11.6 as a Ram. That’s still really good and would have been the best of any volume pass rusher on the Broncos by a long shot.

The average NFL defense faced 550 passing plays in 2021. So I set the minimum pass rush snap level to qualify at 275. Only three Bronco pass rushers had more than 275 pass rush snaps: Malik Reed - 334, Shelby Harris - 312, and Dre’Mont Jones - 358. Let’s focus on Reed since he plays the same position as Von. Reed generated pressure on 8.4 percent of his pass rush snaps which was one of the worst numbers among volume pass rushers who were edge defenders. For perspective, Micah Parsons, who was the best pass rusher in the league in 2021 (by pressure rate), had almost triple the success rate of Reed.

If you count Bradley Chubb as an OLB (as it appears he will be in Eviro’s defense), his pass rush success rate (pressure rate) was even worse than Reed’s. Chubb only generated pressure on 7.2 percent of his pass rush snaps. Admittedly he only had 111, but this was his worst pass rush season by far - which indicates to me that he was probably only playing at 70 percent health when he was on the field.

If Von decides that he is playing in 2022 (he could still decide to retire now that he has two rings), it makes sense for the Broncos to bring him back. He would be an immediate upgrade to a fairly feckless 2021 pass rush. Von generated pressure on 16.1 percent of his pass rush snaps in 2019. While he is slowing down some, he might take a slight discount to come back to Denver IF he though the Broncos had a legitimate shot to make a run at a Super Bowl in the last few years of his career. The only way that happens is if the Broncos escape quarterback purgatory where they have been living since winning Super Bowl 50.

The oldest edge defender in the NFL in 2021 was Everson Griffen who was 34 and played 72 percent of the defensive snaps for the Vikings. There were four edge defenders who were 33 last season: Brandon Graham, Jerry Hughes, Ryan Kerrigan and Pernell McPhee. Graham played on 5 percent of the defensive snaps. Hughes played 52 percent. While Kerrigan played 31 percent and McPhee played 36 percent. Von played 78 percent and was 32 last season. So he appears to have the juice left to play the 80ish percent that he did in most years with the Broncos.

The Broncos currently have the money (cap space) to bring back Von, but that could change if they get an upgrade at quarterback. The top six edge defenders in the NFL are all currently making more than 20 million per year. Let’s say that Von decides he wants to finish his career in Denver and gives the team a discount so that he is ONLY making 17 million per year (which is what Shaq Barrett is currently making with the Bucs). That would still make him the eleventh highest paid edge defender in the league.

In a year where there are no answers at QB in the draft, it might make better sense to use our pick at 9 on an edge defender/pass rusher. Elite edge rushers rarely last into the second round. The majority of the free agent edge defenders are on the backside of their careers similar to Von, who is currently 32. Chandler Jones is 31. Jason Pierre-Paul is 32. Jerry Hughes is 33. Jadeveon Clowney is 28, but injury-prone. Melvin Ingram is 32. Honesty if the Broncos do decide to spend on a free agent edge defender, Von is the best fit and makes the most sense. Particularly since he should already be familiar with the defense that Eviro will run in Denver in 2022 (assuming it’s similar to what the Rams ran in 2021).

Poll

The Broncos need an upgrade at edge defender. What’s your preference to upgrade the position?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Bring back Von Miller
    (436 votes)
  • 32%
    draft one at 9
    (254 votes)
  • 8%
    Bring in another free agent edge (name in comments)
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    We don’t need an upgrade Reed and Chubb gonna both be elite in 2022!!!
    (26 votes)
786 votes total Vote Now