Von Miller and the Broncos still don't have a deal in place, but that's likely to change in the coming weeks.
The Broncos and the Super Bowl 50 MVP couldn't agree on a long-term contract prior to the team's self-imposed deadline of 10 p.m. MT on Tuesday. A motivating factor for the deadline was because the Broncos wanted Miller to be at minicamp, which ends Thursday. Miller, who was given an exclusive linebacker franchise tender for $14.26 million, isn't required to attend because he isn't under contract.
Denver reportedly offered $114.5 million over six years, which would have made Miller the NFL's highest paid non-quarterback at $19,083,333 per year. The distinction is currently held by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who received a six-year, $114.375 million contract containing $59.955 million fully guaranteed from the Miami Dolphins last year as an unrestricted free agent. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Denver's offer has $58 million in overall guarantees where $38.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing and $39.8 million in the first two years. Included in the $38.5 million is a $21.5 million signing bonus.
Talks broke down over guaranteed money and cash flow of the deal. The amounts fully guaranteed at signing and in the first three years of a contract are much more important than average yearly salary and the overall value of a deal, which are relatively meaningless because of the general lack of security in NFL contracts.
Miller is believed to be seeking full guarantees and a cash flow more in line with Suh's contract. Suh has $50 million over the first two years of his deal. He's at $60 million after three years. Miller wants overall guarantees approaching $70 million according to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold.
It was initially believed that the Broncos had withdrawn their offer to Miller. The offer is reportedly still on the table while the Broncos reassess their position as the negotiations have reached an impasse.
Here's a look at what lies ahead for Miller and the Broncos.
Here's why July 15th is critical in negotiations
The Broncos and Miller have until 4 p.m. ET on July 15 to reach agreement on a long-term contract. Once this deadline for franchise players has passed, the earliest a multi-year deal can be is signed Jan. 1, 2017, when the 2016 regular season ends.
The sides will likely remain at an impasse until the deadline is approaching. This is partially because the slowest part of the NFL calendar is the period between the end of minicamp and offseason workouts, which begins on June 17 for most teams, and the Fourth of July. Team employees will begin coming back from vacation after the holiday.
Talks will likely resume as July 15 approaches. Most franchise player long term deals are signed in the eleventh hour anyway. That was the case with Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas last year.
A deal should get done, but it'll take concessions
A deal should be able to be made once negotiations resume because a general framework is already in place. Both sides are comfortable with $114.5 million as the total and six years and the length of the contract.
Reaching an agreement will require concessions from Miller's camp and the Broncos. Miller must realize that he isn't going beat Suh's deal in all contract metrics because he is operating under an exclusive franchise tag, which prevents him from soliciting offer sheets from other teams. Suh got his deal by leveraging interest from multiple teams as an unrestricted free agent.
That's a big distinction between Miller and Suh's situations.
The chart below outlines the top non-quarterback deals in some key contract metrics that should be relevant to Miller.
|Name||Club||Position|| Guaranteed |
| Two-year |
| Three-year |
| Overall |
Justin Houston and J.J. Watt aren't among the top five non-quarterbacks in money fully guaranteed at signing. The six-year, $101 million contract Houston received from the Chiefs last July as a franchise player has $32.5 million fully guaranteed at signing. Watt's six-year, $100 million contract extension with the Texans from 2014 contains $30,876,385 fully guaranteed at signing.
Suh's contract is an outlier in some respects. Quarterback contracts aren't even structured as favorably as Suh's. Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco are second and third in the NFL with $44.5 million and $44 million fully guaranteed at signing respectively from the Packers and Ravens. Dareus is fourth.
Expecting close to $70 million in overall guarantees is also unrealistic and unreasonable. Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Philip Rivers currently have the most in the NFL at $65 million in their respective contracts with the Giants and Chargers. Manning has $37 million fully guaranteed at signing while Rivers is at $37.5 million.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck could become the NFL standard for most major contract metrics with the blockbuster deal he is expected to sign before the start of training camp in late July.
The Broncos shouldn't expect Miller to accept a structure that isn't at least comparable to Thomas'. As Denver's franchise player last year, Thomas signed a deal with $43.5 million in overall guarantees where $35 million was fully guaranteed at signing, which is the money in his contract's first two years.
Thomas' $8.5 million 2017 base salary in his third contract year was guaranteed for injury at signing but became fully guaranteed five days after Super Bowl 50, which was this past Feb. 12. His third-year guarantee is unusual. The Broncos typically have any third-year injury guarantees vest as full guarantees in that specific contract year. (i.e.; 2017 base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2017 league year).
Thomas also has guarantees without offsets, just like in 2013 franchise player Ryan Clady's contract. This means if Thomas is released in 2017, he will get the entire $8.5 million salary from the Broncos in addition to the full salary from his new contract with another club. An offset clause would prevent this "double dipping" because the Broncos would be able reduce the guaranteed $8.5 million by the amount of Thomas' deal with his new team.
Here's what an acceptable deal will look like
The Broncos are in a position to pay Miller at the top of the non-quarterback market because there shouldn't be a high-priced quarterback on the books anytime soon. Once Paxton Lynch, who was taken with the 26th overall pick in the NFL Draft, takes over at quarterback, he will be one of the NFL's lowest-paid starters at the position. He just signed a four-year, $9,496,307 contract where his largest salary cap number in 2019 will be slightly more than $3 million.
If Lynch is the long-term solution at quarterback, he won't be able to sign an extension until 2019 when the guaranteed money under any long-term deal Miller signs this year will have run out.
The Broncos should be willing to slightly exceed Suh's $60 million in the first three years within the existing framework of $114.5 million over six years. Letting Miller break Dareus' defensive player record of $60 million in overall guarantees is also advisable.
The $61 million to $62 million range for both the overall guarantees and money in the first three years should be a fair compromise. Miller would be setting the standard for non-quarterbacks in these two metrics in addition to average yearly salary.
The Broncos should remain relatively firm with money fully guaranteed at signing when making these other concessions. Topping Dareus' $42.9 million will likely be a necessity. The Broncos shouldn't be opposed to putting Miller on par with Rodgers' $44.5 million or slightly above it to reach an agreement. Miller's 2018 guarantee in his third contract year will need to vest early next February since this money won't be fully guaranteed at signing. Guarantees without offsets would also be appropriate given it was done with Denver's last two franchise players before Miller.
Miller's second year salary being fully guaranteed at signing without an offset and the $21.5 million signing bonus should eliminate the need for him to have his third year fully guaranteed at the outset of the deal. These structural components would make it too cost prohibitive with regards to the salary cap for Denver to release Miller before his third-year guarantee fully vests next February. In other words, Miller would be practically assured of playing at least three years under the deal with the same structure as Thomas.
Don't expect a holdout (or a long one)
Miller has reportedly threatened to sit out the season if the July 15 deadline passes without a long-term deal. That's likely just posturing. Miller missing any part of the regular season would seem remote with him losing almost $840,000 of salary for each week missed.
In fact, it hasn't happened with a healthy franchise player since the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement implemented the July multiyear deal deadline. This excludes Jason Pierre-Paul, who missed eight regular season games last year while he wasn't cleared physically by the Giants from his Fourth of July fireworks accident that resulted in the amputation of his right index finger and injuries to other parts of his hand. Dunta Robinson came closest when he signed his franchise tender four days before the Texans' 2009 regular-season opener.
It would likely be a matter of when, not if Miller reported to the Broncos. Since franchise players aren't under contract, Miller couldn't be fined up to $40,000 for each day of camp missed.
Miller would still be allowed to negotiate his one-year salary with the Broncos and other conditions relating to his franchise player status. He could insist on a clause that would prohibit the Broncos from using a franchise or transition designation on him in 2017 (i.e.; a prohibition clause) in order to sign his tender and report.
Obtaining a prohibition clause might be difficult for Miller. A franchise player hasn't gotten this type of provision since 2008 when the Titans gave Albert Haynesworth a conditional prohibition clause. It was triggered by Haynesworth making the Pro Bowl, having at least 60 percent defensive playtime, or 53 percent defensive playtime and the Titans winning at least 10 games or ranking in the top five in total defense.
Linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Asante Samuel had clauses similar to Haynesworth's when they were franchised in 2007 by the Bears and Patriots, respectively. Samuel's prohibition clause was triggered by him having at least 60 percent playtime on defense or the Patriots winning at least 12 games. Briggs' clause was predicated on him having at least 75 percent playtime on defense.
Jeff Backus and Nate Clements received the last unconditional prohibition clauses in 2006 with the Lions and Bills, respectively.