Revisiting Denver’s contractual control of Von Miller Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Let's start off with an excellent question from reader Steve Williams:

Peyton Manning aside, Von Miller is clearly the Broncos' most valuable asset, and as Steve suggests, he's eventually going to get a contract which reflects that.

The big questions of course, are how much Von will get, and when he'll get it.

It could reasonably be argued that among non-quarterbacks, Houston's J.J. Watt is the only player in the league worth more than Von, and both players figure to continue to improve, given their youth, and health permitting.

We were told Mario Williams got $50M in guarantees from Buffalo last year, although as the Elvis Dumervil story reminds us, even these guaranteed numbers are significantly inflated. In fact, Williams only received a full guarantee on $24.9M.

Continuing on this tangent for a moment, Elvis's contract has long been characterized as having $43.156M in guarantees, but we now know he likely won't be seeing $12M of that from Denver. Tom Brady and Joe Flacco each received new deals recently which were advertised as containing over $50M in guarantees, but likewise, under the hood, it's just not the case.

Anyway, back to Von. If he were a free agent right now, he'd likely get a whole lot more than Williams did with the Bills.

Now that we're talking about full guarantees, as opposed to advertised guarantees, our guess is that Von would get about $40M in full guarantees which would cover perhaps the first three years of a deal.

Fortunately for Denver, and less fortunately for Von, he's not a free agent, and he won't be one anytime soon.

Miller is set to make a touch below $2.3M in 2013, a bit more than $3.2M in 2014, and he's then scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency for 2015.

But wait, there's a catch! And of course, it favors the Broncos. (Remember how the CBA was portrayed as those greedy players seeking and receiving an unreasonable amount of the NFL's profit pie? Yeah, not so much.)

Here's the catch. Actually, there are two.

First, notice that there's no talk about Von potentially holding out for a better deal this summer, even though he's grossly underpaid. That's because under the CBA, no rookie contracts can be renegotiated until after three seasons. So, as Steve noted in his question, Miller is first eligible for a new deal after the 2013 season.

Second, the Broncos hold an option on Von for 2015, which would pay the linebacker at the 2014 transition tender level (figure around $9M). The window for Denver to trigger this option begins after the 2013 regular season finale and ends on May 3, 2014. That ~$9M salary is only guaranteed for injury when exercised, and does not become fully guaranteed until the beginning of the 2015 league year.

In 2016, Denver could use its franchise tag to keep Von from hitting free agency, and for that, they'd likely owe him a salary of around $11M (a 20% raise on his 2015 salary, unless the league-wide LB tender value is higher). If they were to tag him in 2017, then they're looking at another 20% raise, to around $13.2M.

Tagging him a third time in 2018 would require a 44% raise, to around $19M, and that's when the tender presumably gets too expensive. But not necessarily - depends upon how Von's career progresses. He'll only be 29 years old during that season.

In total, including two theoretical franchise tags, the Broncos can keep Von through the 2017 season (five more years) at a cost of just $38.7M in total, which is an absolute bargain.

The Broncos have control, and they possess all of the leverage, whereas all Von will have as a bargaining chip will be to hold out for a better deal next year. (If I'm Von Miller, I'm planning to hold out in 2014, because I am not going to play for $3.2M and risk my health and earning power, when I know I'm worth many times more than that on the open market. To anyone who claims they'd "stand by the contract" in Von's shoes, I heartily say bullshit.)

Obviously, we have no idea how the Broncos plan to handle Von's situation. But you're right, Steve - they have to be thinking about it, and if they're going to give him a new contract next year, they'll need to save up both cash and cap space to make that happen.

I still think this Dumervil stuff is part of something bigger for 2013, but it could most certainly be partially motivated by a long-term plan to keep Von in town, and happy.

Broncos

Jeff Legwold emphatically repeats that Denver is not interested in dealing for Darrelle Revis; Revis ran on a treadmill on Monday and is aiming to run outdoors in four to six weeks; Chase Stuart considers the options facing the LOLJets with Revis.

Legwold lists some of the pro day performers he thinks the Broncos may be interested in.

Player News

Although teams and pending free agents are clearly already talking, the official legal tampering period begins after the clock strikes midnight tonight.

Miami agreed to a new five-year deal with Brian Hartline that will give the receiver $12.5M in guarantees as part of a $30.775M total value.

Like with the Broncos and Dumervil, Pittsburgh is asking LB James Harrison to take a pay cut, but it sounds like they're going to end up cutting him instead; the same fate may await CB DeAngelo Hall in Washington.

According to Jason Cole, Minnesota is interested in signing WR Mike Wallace, to help them replace Percy Harvin, who may hold out and apparently threatened to walk out on the team after New England gave TE Aaron Hernandez a new deal after just two seasons.

Oakland freed up $5M in cap space by restructuring with S Tyvon Branch; Cincy re-signed RB Cedric Peerman and tendered S Jeromy Miles; San Francisco tendered CB Tramaine Brock at the original round level; Buffalo is working to re-sign CB Leodis McKelvin; DE John Abraham will visit with Seattle.

Other News

Even as the Ginger Hammer continues to publicly claim he's interested in increasing player safety, he refuses behind closed doors to acknowledge the obvious link between football and long-term cognitive problems.

A group of Native American petitioners is challenging the racist name of Washington's football team before a trademarks board.

Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo spoke at length with USAT about his advocacy on behalf of gay rights.

If it's not clear why we didn't applaud the Ultimate Teammate™ when he canceled his speaking engagement at a Dallas hate church, perhaps a look at his next scheduled event will help. It's hardly believable that Timmy canceled in Dallas because he disagreed with that church's views, which were no secret when he first agreed to speak there. Rather, it was likely all about the backlash.

Old friends Clinton Portis and Kyle Orton are among a group of 31 players who collectively lost $40M in a failed casino.

Draft

Gil Brandt reports on the pro days of TCUArizonaIllinoisTexas TechWest Texas A&M, and Eastern Washington; wideout DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.41 at Clemson's pro day.

Doug Farrar evaluates Hopkins and discusses this year's QB prospects with Greg Cosell in their latest podcast.

Gamecocks DE Jadeveon Clowney, who isn't draft eligible thanks to collusion on the part of the NFL and NCAA to make college ball a free minor league, has purchased a $5M insurance policy to protect his future earning potential.

Analysis

Jason from Over the Cap discusses the use of voidable contract years and explains how rookie salary pools function.

Over at PFF, a look at the most overpaid edge rushers (Dumervil, Dwight Freeney, and a slew of big names) and tight ends relative to grading, plus a telling look at how the current CBA has altered the picture for how appropriately young players are paid.

Judy Battista offers pre-free agency thoughs on each AFC and NFC team and what they're expected to do.

Ben Muth wraps up his look at free agent tackles with an evaluation of Jermon Bushrod, Jake Long, and Phil Loadholt.

If Wes Welker thinks he can test the market and still re-sign with the Pats, Ashley Fox suggests he heed the early departures of Richard Seymour and Lawyer Milloy from New England.

Bill Barnwell presents his free agent book for Rams WR Danny Amendola

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

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