Much has been written and reported — and behind the scenes, said and alleged — over the past week about the Von Miller contract situation in Denver. Here’s the first thing we’ll say about it this week: A deal remains within reach, if the two sides commit to working one out.
Based on multiple conversations with multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, it’s clear that the two sides have yet to engage in true negotiations, with exchanges of positions augmented by meaningful debates and sustained dialogue. The fact that the Broncos attached deadlines to multiple offers made to Miller and then leaked the terms of their most recent offer to the media has genuinely inflamed the situation. Other factors, which currently can’t be disclosed due to the sensitivity of the situation, also have contributed to a real sense of tension between the two sides that, while fixable through an effort to bridge what really isn’t a significant gap at this point, could explode absent a commitment to work things out.
It’s the same thing we’ve said in the not-so-distant past about the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Get in a room, lock the door from the outside, and emerge once a deal is done. Unlike Fitzpatrick, a truly unrestricted free agent who has little or no interest elsewhere in his services as a starter, Miller has other viable alternatives, despite being limited by the exclusive franchise tag.
While it arguably makes more sense to show up on the Tuesday after Week 10, make roughly $5.8 million, and do the franchise-tag dance again in 2017, Miller can avoid the exclusive tag in 2017 only by sitting out the full year. With plenty of teams likely interested in giving up a first- and third-round pick plus a market-level contract nine months from now if Miller sits out the full season and triggers, under the rules of the labor deal, an easier path out of Denver, it’s currently believed he’d get much more from another team next year than the Broncos are offering this year.
Along the way, Miller wouldn’t be sitting around doing nothing. Miller could make plenty of money going to work for a TV network (either as a pro or college football analyst), replacing a chunk of the lost income from not playing football in 2016. He could also have other opportunities to parlay his fame as the Super Bowl 50 MVP (and notoriety as a guy who is opting not to play in 2016) into revenue streams.
Many will scoff at the possibility of Miller sitting out, because very few NFL players ever do it. But just as strongly as I currently believe a deal can be done if the two sides commit to negotiation, I believe that if they don’t Miller will eventually decide that he wants out of Denver, activating the easiest and clearest path out by not playing at all in the coming season.
Miller’s not yet at that point. But the two sides aren’t where they need to be, either, when it comes to trying to work things out. If they fail to work things out by July 15, and if the Broncos decline to give Miller a one-year deal with a commitment not to tag him again in 2017, the chances of Miller not playing are much stronger than most currently assume them to be.