If the Broncos and linebacker Von Miller don’t strike a long-term deal by July 15, his best option could be to sit out the entire season and sign an offer sheet with another team next year, when: (1) the Broncos would be unable to use the exclusive franchise tag on Miller; and (2) the compensation for signing him away from Denver would drop to a first- and a third-round draft pick.
Already, there’s buzz that other teams have made their potential interest in Miller known, through the kind of wink-nod conversations that routinely happen regarding players like Miller, who are the sole property of other teams. (Even though Miller technically is unemployed, the Broncos hold exclusive negotiating rights with Miller, making him off limits for any discussions with other teams.) If Miller sits out the entire 2016 season, there’s already a belief that significantly more money will be there for him than what the Broncos are currently offering, even with a new team having to give up a pair of high draft picks to get him.
Why would a team make it known now that true market value will be available to Miller later if he doesn’t play in 2016? Even though the other team can’t get Miller until 2017, letting him know that the money will be there in March gives that team the benefit in 2016 of competing with a Broncos franchise that won’t have Miller at all.
Think about the 2015 season, specifically the playoffs. Would the Broncos have won the Super Bowl over Carolina without Miller? More importantly, would they have even beaten the Patriots to get there if Miller hadn’t played?
Promising, unofficially, a major payday to Miller in March operates as a figurative baton to his kneecap now, knocking him out of service for the Broncos as they try to defend their championship and, in turn, setting the stage for that other team to get him next year — and for that team to be even lower in the draft order, making the surrender of the first- and third-round picks less painful.
The other team doesn’t even need to eventually win the auction for Miller next year to derive a real benefit this year. Time and again, Super Bowl champions get dismantled via free agency. Given Miller’s current situation, there’s a way to dismantle the Denver defense without actually getting the player, now or in the future.
That alone could be enough to entice teams hoping to get past Denver in 2016 to discreetly promise that, if Miller doesn’t play in 2016, the financial reward definitely will be there when he qualifies for the non-exclusive franchise tag. For that reason, it would be naive to assume that there aren’t multiple teams making known to Miller that, regardless of what Denver offers on or before July 15, much more will be available in fewer than nine months.