When Broncos linebacker Von Miller recently declared there’s “no chance” he’ll play under the franchise tag in 2016, many interpreted his message as being that, if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline, he won’t play at all this year. But there’s an alternative; after July 15, Miller could sign a one-year contract with the Broncos containing terms other than the basic nuts and bolts of the franchise tag.
For example, the Broncos could add a term preventing them from using the franchise tag on Miller again in 2017. Alternatively (or additionally), the Broncos could offer Miler more than $14.129 million for one season.
The latter is unlikely given the team’s cap situation. A long-term deal would inevitably result in a reduction in his current cap charge of $14.129 million for 2016. An increase for 2016 would bump the cap number up accordingly.
Would a promise not to use the tag in 2017 get Miller’s attention? Perhaps. The question then would become whether he’s willing to assume the risk of injury and ineffectiveness in 2016 for $14.129 million and a clear shot at the open market in March. At that point, the other alternative would be to pass on the $14.129 million, sit out the season, become a non-exclusive franchise player (by rule) in 2017, and have the compensation for signing him away drop (by rule) to a first-round and third-round pick.
There’s an unknown in this equation that, if we’re willing to not be naive, isn’t really an unknown. Despite the tampering rules, there are ways to find out whether and to what extent other teams would be willing to give up the picks and a gigantic pile of money in 2017, if Miller chooses to skip 2016 and grease the skids for ticket out of Denver. Surely, Miller’s agents have an idea as to who would be at the table and what they would be dropping on it if Miller chooses not to play at all this season.
Before those questions become directly relevant, July 15 must come and go without the Broncos and Miller working out a long-term contract. A multi-year agreement remains the more likely outcome, if the two sides can find a way to genuinely negotiate regarding the structure of a six-year, $114.5 million contract. But if stubbornness prevails on either or both side of the table for 26 more days, an outcome that most regard as impossible immediately becomes remarkably plausible.