Miller’s ACL tear adds wrinkle to 2015 option, sabotages his chance at extension

Last updated: Dec 23, 2013 7:17 PM

The most obvious effects of Von Miller's torn ACL are that it ends his 2013 season, and is a significant blow to Denver's Super Bowl chances.

While the injury has the potential to affect Miller's career for the long term, that would seem a lesser concern at this point, given how well players tend to recover from ACL injuries.

But as the Broncos' coaches and players continue to focus on locking down HFA and their playoff run, the front office will face a big decision on Miller as soon as their regular season ends.

As a 2011 first-rounder, Von was part of the first draft class under the current CBA, and thus was given a slotted four-year rookie contract.

Although he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2014 season, Denver holds a 2015 option for Miller, as all teams now do with their first-round picks.

The exercise period for that option begins once the Broncos' regular season ends, although we're not sure whether that means Sunday or Monday.

From there, Denver will have through May 2 of next year to unilaterally extend Miller's contract through 2015, at a value equal to the 2014 transition value for linebackers.

In other words, the team must make this decision before Von's rehabilitation is complete - according to Mike Klis, getting Miller back by the start of training camp in late July is currently seen as a best-case scenario.

If the Broncos elect not to exercise their option, Von would hit free agency after 2014, although the team could then use its franchise tag on him, at a higher cost.

The 2013 transition value was $8.216M, so figure upon the 2014 figure being somewhere between there and $9M. The 2013 franchise tag for linebackers was worth $9.455M, so by 2015, that number should be well over $10M.

While either of those salaries would be a bargain for a player of Von's caliber, his injury could conceivably make the decision more complex for Denver.

That 2015 option, once triggered, immediately becomes guaranteed for injury.

However, it is not guaranteed for skill until the 2015 League Year begins, so the Broncos are protected in case Miller's level of play drops precipitously next year, so much that they want to cut ties with him.

That's a highly unlikely scenario, but Von himself is a prime example of how quickly things change in the NFL.

Only months ago, the linebacker was seen as a flawless superstar: dominant on the field, a charismatic - if quirky - character off it, and a franchise cornerstone.

The 2011 NFL DROY, 2012 DPOY runner-up and All-Pro, two-time PFF All-NFL first teamer, and two-time Pro Bowler, had tallied a whopping 30 sacks in his first two seasons.

But the summer of 2013 brought a six-game suspension for the 24-year old, for violation of the league's drug policy. Miller allegedly enlisted a urine collector to swap out Von's urine for that of another person, so as to evade a potential positive result.

If Von is found in violation of the substance abuse policy again during his career, he faces a one-year ban.

News of traffic infractions and arrest warrants ramped up the Von-is-a-thug talk, but then as now, those incidents were completely overblown.

Some have questioned Miller's character, while others have laughably claimed that his added muscle was affecting his production (without mention of Elvis Dumervil's departure). But from PFF's perspective, Von graded out a stellar +40.2 over 552 snaps, with six sacks, eight QB hits, 27 hurries, 28 tackles, and 23 stops.

Even in those limited snaps, that +40.2 figure is by far PFF's highest grade among all NFL linebackers.

Ultimately, we believe the Broncos still have an easy decision, and we expect they'll exercise their 2015 option on him.

But Von's injury at least somewhat raises the question of whether they'll do so.

From Miller's perspective, the injury could not have come at a worse time, as this offseason marks not only Denver's chance to exercise their 2015 option, but it is also Von's first opportunity to negotiate an extension to his rookie deal.

For at least a year now, we've been expecting Miller to push for a big contract this offseason.

However, given his current circumstances, Von's leverage figures to be at an all-time low, and it's now difficult to envision him getting a new deal anytime soon.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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