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NFL AM: Bengals Extend Bernard, Broncos Stall Talks With Von Miller

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Bernard Accepts Modest Offer

The warm-weather, low activity months of June and July are finally upon us and thus this is known as “the business season” in the National Football League.

This is where players can make outlandish statements about their teams and also try to garner their eight- or nine-figure contract extensions.

The Cincinnati Bengals came to terms with running back Giovanni Bernard on a very modest three-year, $15.5 million contract extension as the team kept their 1-2 punch of Bernard and Jeremy Hill in tact.

Here’s what the Bengals PR office had to say about it:

The Bengals today signed HB Giovani Bernard to a three-year contract extension, running through the 2019 season. Prior to the extension, Bernard for 2016 was in the final season of the four-year contract he signed as a Bengals second-round draft choice in 2013.

            Bernard (5-9, 205; North Carolina) has averaged 1147 yards from scrimmage over his three Bengals seasons. He has rushed for 2105 yards (4.3 avg.) and had 1335 receiving yards on 148 catches (9.0). He has scored 17 touchdowns, 12 rushing and five receiving. He has played in 48 of a possible 51 games (including postseason), missing only three, due to injuries in 2014.

            “It’s great to be able to extend our commitment with Gio,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “It’s all a part of what I keep saying — draft the right players, develop them, and retain them. We’re excited about the great things Gio will continue to add to our offense.”

            Last season, Bernard had a career-best 730 rushing yards and a 4.7 average, sharing opportunities in a tandem with HB Jeremy Hill. Bernard averaged a career-best 9.6 yards on receptions (49-472).

            “I love Cincinnati and want to be here for as long as I can,” Bernard said. “This moment is about having a future. It’s a secure feeling knowing I’ll be here and can help this team win. I can’t picture myself in anything but orange and black.”

            Bernard holds Bengals records for most receptions in a season by a running back (56 in 2013) and most receiving yards in a game by a running back (128 last season at Arizona). His 89-yard TD run in 2014 vs. Carolina stands as the second-longest rush in Bengals history.

The low dollar figure speaks to the lack of respect around the running back position.  Bernard is a weapon in the passing game as well as being one of the most elusive backs in the game, and his contract is modest at best.  Part of that goes to the fact that he is in a tandem backfield with Hill.

If Bernard were to test the market after the season, his numbers likely would have been modest due to the splitting of carries and it’s up in the air whether he would have been able to get more money on the open market.

Miller Rejects Lucrative Deal

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller is in one of the best leverage positions of all time as he enters the 2016 NFL season on the franchise tag.

Miller was one of the main reasons why the team won Super Bowl 50 and he was the MVP of the country’s most watched sporting event.  With the loss of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in free agency, Broncos nation would go to legend John Elway’s house with fire and pitchfork’s if they don’t get a deal done with Miller.

The Broncos stepped up, reportedly offering Miller a six-year, $114 million contract on Tuesday, with a deadline of Tuesday night to accept it.

Miller rejected the offer, and now both sides have until July 15th to work out a new deal or he will have to play the season on his exclusive franchise tender worth approximately $14.129 million.

The sticking point was likely the amount of guaranteed money that Denver offered which was reported as somewhere around $40 million.  Although that’s nothing to scoff at, it is less money than former Broncos backup and Houston Texans starting quarterback Brock Osweiler received after starting just seven games in his career.

There are whispers from Miller’s camp that he’s contemplating sitting out the 2016 season.  First of all, nobody should believe him.  He’s not going to sit out a year in his prime earning years that would pay him in excess of $14 million.  Miller doesn’t have that much money in the bank to where a paycheck like that wouldn’t affect him.

Secondly, he would still be in the same situation next year, just a year older and with considerably less negotiating leverage.

To put it simply, Miller is not going to sit out the season.

The Broncos offseason is quickly turning nightmarish and if a deal can’t be done with their best player, it will cause for another major distraction entering into their title defense.

Luck Will Break The Bank

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the prospect that all others are judged upon.  He is ultra-intelligent, a great citizen, excellent mobility, prototypical size and arm strength.

Without Luck for half of last season, the Colts missed the playoffs for the first time during the Luck tenure.

With the former No. 1 overall pick entering the final year of his rookie deal, talks of a contract extension have heated up.

“Really good conversations,” Irsay said after the team’s open practice. “Obviously his uncle Will is a lawyer and has represented him from the beginning. We have a great relationship and I see something getting done. It’s not easy. It’s obviously going to be a big number, and we want to make sure the contract is something that’s Colt-friendly as we approach even the next decade.”

Luck and his camp haven’t spoken much about the new deal, and both sides know that they want each other.  The main figures will obviously be average per year and total amount guaranteed.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is currently the top per-season earner in the NFL at $22.13 million, while quarterbacks Eli Manning and Philip Rivers share the title of most guaranteed money at $65 million.

Luck is already a better player than the Super Bowl winning Flacco, and is roughly eight and nine years younger than Rivers and Manning respectively.  His contract numbers should blow away all of the current top salary marks.

“I think there’s been a really good element of compromise [from] both sides,” Irsay said. “Look, we went into it knowing that this is going to be a big contract and a big deal and all those things. We didn’t hide any cards that way. I think there’s been compromise on both sides.

“… I think that in the end, you guys know what it’s about. It comes down to the debate in the negotiations of years, total number, total guarantees and those sorts of things and obviously how it relates to the cap. But I haven’t seen anything that’s just been a problem, that’s going to hold it up. And I see progress being made.”

It’s not always about the money, it’s usually about what the money represents and that’s respect. Luck is widely known as the best young quarterback in football and his contract negotiations should begin where Russell Wilson’s ended.  The Seahawks quarterback signed a four-year, $87.6 million deal with $61.5 million in guaranteed money.

Luck doesn’t seem like the type to let his contract become a distraction for the team, but the Colts need to be aware that if they don’t get a deal done by the beginning of the season, he will likely only gain more leverage as he enters the final year of his deal.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.