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NFL AM: Broncos Up the Ante With Record Offer to Von Miller

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They say deadlines make deals and that’s what Von Miller and the Denver Broncos are trending toward on Friday.

Once thought to be miles apart in contract negotiations, Miller and Broncos brass have made significant progress in contract extension talks in recent days. On Thursday it was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Denver had up its offer to a whopping six-year, $114.5 million contract that would include $59 million in guaranteed money paid out to Miller in the first nine months of the contract, and $70 million guaranteed overall. The team and player have until 4 p.m. ET on Friday to finish the deal.

Miller has said that if an agreement on a long-term deal is not reached, he does not plan to play out the 2016 season under the one-year franchise tag tender the Broncos placed on him in March and would instead be willing to sit out the season. It’s a high-stakes game for both sides, but it appears Miller has played his hand perfectly.

If signed, it would be a record-setting deal for Miller, likely making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, eclipsing the average annual value of the contract the Miami Dolphins gave Ndamukong Suh last offseason. Additionally, no defensive player has ever received a $70 million guarantee and that total would put him on par with some of the league’s highest paid quarterbacks.

The basic structure of the deal, which just slightly eclipses that of Suh, has been in place for about a month according to reports. Since then, it’s been a matter of working out the guaranteed money portion of the deal. Denver was initially hesitant to guarantee much more than the $59.955 million Suh got from Miami, but the $63.299 million in guarantees Fletcher Cox got from the Eagles may have nudged their hand forward.

There are few players in the league, quarterback or not, more worth that bounty, both in total and guaranteed money, than Miller. At 27 years old, the five-year veteran is just entering the prime of his career and a six-year deal would expire before his 33rd birthday, making this a fairly sound investment for Denver. Over his first five seasons in the league, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M has not only met the hype that followed him to the NFL, he’s exceeded it.

Miller has been playing the game at a Hall of Fame clip over the early years of his career, racking up four double-digit sack seasons as the motor of Denver’s defense. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and has since been selected to four Pro Bowls and been named First Team All Pro twice.

The lone setback in his career came in 2013, when Miller missed the first six games of the season for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. That violation put Miller on thin ice with the league, pushing him into Phase 3 of the league’s drug program. One more violation, at any point in his career, would carry a mandatory one-year suspension.

But Miller has proven himself clean in the two years since, playing in all 36 Broncos games including the playoffs. Despite missing those first six games of 2013, he’s totaled a whopping 60 sacks over the first five years of his career, which puts him in elite company with plenty still left in the tank and no signs shown of slowing down. In fact, 2015 was perhaps his best year yet. His 11 sacks in the regular season were his lowest output in a full season in his career, but that was a product of offenses sending more protection his way, creating opportunities for his teammates to finish the job. Denver still had the No. 1 total defense and pass defense in the league and racked up a league-high 52 sacks as a group.

Miller than turned his own personal play up a notch in the postseason, tabulating five sacks in three games, including 2.5 in the Super Bowl to earn MVP honors as the Broncos defense guided the squad to the third championship in franchise history.

What Miller offers to the franchise certainly makes him worthy of what he’ll get should he sign on the dotted line by 4 p.m. And it should come as little surprise that Denver caved to pressure after the offseason they’ve had. The defending Super Bowl Champions opened the offseason by losing their top two quarterbacks — Peyton Manning to retirement and Brock Osweiler to free agency. They patched up the position by acquiring Mark Sanchez and drafting Paxton Lynch, but there’s no sure thing in either.

For that reason, ultimate success or failure for Denver will again ride with their defense and they couldn’t afford to take the risk that Miller was serious about sitting out the season. Because, while there’s more to the Denver defense then just Miller, he is the backbone of it, and although he’s still just 27 years old with a lot left to give the franchise, the window is closing for some of his teammates, most notably his partner in crime Demarcus Ware, who is entering his age 34 season. The Broncos also lost one of their most important defensive pieces, tackle Malik Jackson, to free agency, so their defense will need to regroup to repeat the impressive performance of 2015.

They can’t do that without a fully committed Miller, and the Broncos committing so much to him should deliver a version of Von that is ready to tear it up in 2016. His contract may reach unchartered territory for a defensive player, but Von Miller is worth that much to the Denver Broncos, and it’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll earn every penny. Whether they can make the most of it and make another championship run under his watch is another story.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys