The Von Miller contract talks became very public on Wednesday, only two days after a White House visit that had everyone singing Kumbaya and Miller talking about progress being made on a long-term deal. There’s now a belief in some circles the situation quickly could get ugly.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that Miller could sit out the entire 2016 season, eschewing (I love that word) his $14.1 million franchise tender and not playing for the Broncos at all. On the surface, it seems unfathomable that Miller would follow his Super Bowl MVP season by not playing football for an entire season. But Miller would indeed gain a tangible benefit by holding out for a full year, as PFT discerned four years ago during the last Drew Brees impasse with the Saints.
Article 10, Section 15(c) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement provides that the Broncos can’t use the exclusive franchise tender on Miller in 2017 if he doesn’t play in 2016. Also, the compensation another team would be required to give the Broncos if signing Miller to an offer sheet in 2017 would be a first-round and a third-round pick.
It’s a far cry from hitting the open market, Suh-style. But it would undoubtedly bring multiple suitors to the table who would be potentially offering more for Miller than the Broncos are willing to pay.
From Miller’s perspective, walking away from $14.1 million for 2016 or a long-term deal with nearly $40 million fully guaranteed at signing entails significant risk. Will he emerge with a better offer from the Broncos or someone else in 2017? Even if he does, that year of football for which he would have gotten at least $14.1 million or, based on the average of the currently-expired offer, $19 million will be gone forever, with Miller getting zero dollars and zero cents (plus benefits) this season.
Despite the ability to finagle a possible path out of Denver for 2017, the notion that Miller would sit a full season feels like his reaction to the team taking the fairly aggressive stance of putting a large offer on the table with a deadline for taking it. Making a plausible threat to not play at all in 2016 is undoubtedly aimed at making the Broncos willing not only to put the offer back on the table (which they surely will do before the July 15 deadline for doing a long-term deal) but also to sweeten it.
Ultimately, the question likely becomes whether the Broncos will fully guarantee the year-to-year franchise-tag money that Miller would make through 2018. While no one has specifically reported that Miller wants $55.38 million to be fully guaranteed at signing, that’s the sum of what he’d make under three years of the franchise tag, at a 20-percent increase for 2017 and then a 44-percent bump for 2018. It’s reasonable for him to take the position that he’s willing to let the tag drive his long-term deal if the Broncos are willing to assume the risk that he’ll remain sufficiently healthy and effective in 2016 and 2017 to justify using the tag again in 2018.