Von Miller: Defending a Defenseman

The Broncos reportedly made a sizable contract offer to star linebacker Von Miller, which he turned down. Our analyst, Erick Trickel, brings some insight on the touchy situation.

On June 8, 2016, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Denver Broncos offered their star linebacker Von Miller a deal of six years for $114.5 million dollars. That would make Miller the “highest” paid defensive player in the NFL.

Of that $114.5 million, only $39.8 million of it is guaranteed and that is all in the first two years. On the surface, that is a pretty decent deal, but extremely misleading. 

The only way that deal makes Miller the highest paid defensive player in the NFL is if he played every year of the deal and earned all of the bonuses that are likely structured within that deal.

The odds are, he won't earn them all and/or doesn’t play out the full term of the deal, due to either getting cut, or extended before his contract runs up. Also, he could get hit with restructure (pay-cut) requests.

Nowadays, in the modern NFL, guaranteed money is what players want and where you find the true value of a contract. It used to be that the surface deal was the whole deal. That has changed, due to players bombing out once they earn a big contract.

And no, Demaryius Thomas does not fall into that category—not yet anyway, but that is for another day. With Miller’s contract offer, it was $39.8 million, with 'X' amount in a signing bonus, over two years. So, this six-year contract, is really a two-year contract.

This two-year contract only pays him $39.8 million over two years. That isn’t close to being the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, which leads me to my next point.

Oliver Vernon, now of the New York Giants, signed a deal that is essentially a two-year, $40 million dollar deal. However, if he is on the roster on the 5th day of the league year in 2018, another $12.5 million becomes guaranteed.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1676823-did-denver-withdraw-mille... This third-year guarantee is an option year for the Giants. It gives them an out if he doesn’t live up to his contract after two years. This has become the norm for NFL teams.

Denver has done these kind of contracts multiple times, and offered them to others who ended up elsewhere. Some of those players who ended up elsewhere include Malik Jackson, Brock Osweiler and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Aqib Talib is the most prominent example of a player who took one of these deals from Denver. He signed a six-year, $57 million dollar deal with the Broncos, except, when looking into the contract, it was really a three-year deal. All the guaranteed money was in those first three years, making him expendable, with little-to-no dead money after that.

If cut after the 2016 season, Talib only accounts for $2 million in dead money, with $10 million in savings. In 2017 it goes to $1 million dead, with $11 million saved and a full $8 million saved, with no dead money in that sixth and final year.

Without going into too much detail, Demaryius Thomas, who was Denver's franchise-tagged player a year ago, got a similar three-year deal, once you dug into the contract. DeMarcus Ware saw a two-year deal, when his surface contract was a three-year deal, which he likely ends up fully playing out, notwithstanding his recent acceptance of a restructure.

Meanwhile, Derek Wolfe’s deal is only a one-year deal. Examples of this approach go on with C.J. Anderson, Russell Okung, T.J. Ward, Donald Stephenson, Virgil Green and Jared Crick all joining the list.

So there is quite the history of Denver making such deals. However, there is no question that the two-year, $39.8 million dollar offer for Miller is a bit on the low side. Why take that, when he can play out the year on the franchise tag, earn $14.129 million dollars, and sign a big deal next year and get even more money?

“Well, Erick, they can just tag him again next year?” Yes, they could and to do so they would have to pay Miller 120 percent of his contract for this year, which is $16.955 million (rounding up) for a total of $31.084 million, or just under $500K less than what the Jacksonville Jaguars guaranteed Malik Jackson, or nearly $10 million less than Vernon got from the Giants for the same amount of time.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1676810-miller-refuses-denver-s-l... Still don’t think this offer is a little low for Miller? Miller, the guy who just won Denver a Super Bowl almost single handedly, was named Super Bowl MVP and has grown into a top three-defensive player in the NFL.

Of course, some of you may bring up the point that Denver can tag him for a third straight year. They can, but that is 144 percent of the previous year, which is $24.415 million (again rounding up) for the 2018 season, which brings his total money earned to a whopping $55.499 million over three years.

Now, I have no insight directly into the negotiations, nor do I personally know the wants of Miller. However, making an educated guess, I would say the $55.499 million over three years is what Denver needs to beat with the true value of the contract offer. If I were Miller, that would be my target.

I would bet on myself, force the team to come to my terms, or close enough to them. That, or bet on myself and either make them tag me again, or sign elsewhere. But in either case, I would be pushing for an even bigger deal. Same thing for year three, provided year two is played on the tag.

Demaryius Thomas did something similar a year ago. Had he played out the year on the tag, it would have been $12.823 million. With years two and three on the tag for $15.388 and $22.158 million respectively—a total of $50.369 million.

Thomas settled for $35 million fully guaranteed and $43.5 million in total guarantees. So $15 million less than three years on the tag, and that is at a less premier position than pass rusher. This helps Miller’s case even more.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1667872-miller-i-m-gonna-be-a-bro... Now, you might say, “Miller says he wants to be a Broncos for life, but he didn’t accept this offer, so that isn’t true”. Well, that isn’t entirely accurate.

Having guarantees over two years means the team can safely cut him after two years. While his side may be pushing for more money, they could be pushing for the guaranteed money to be split over more years.

Meaning that he has a higher chance of sticking around for longer. So, this could all be a case of him really wanting to be a Bronco for life..

As for the $39.8 million, or $114.5 million being more than enough to live off of, that isn’t what Miller would take home. It isn’t even close. With pro athletes, they have to pay taxes for every state that they play a game in. For Miller, that would mean Colorado taxes on eight game checks, at least two for California and one for Missouri, plus five other states in all likelihood.

That takes a big chunk out of what they take home. Add in agent commissions and many other fees pro athletes are faced with, they can take home anywhere from 30-50% of their contract's value.

Now, for the real kicker. To go even further in defending Miller, these pro athletes play in a multi-billion dollar business. They put their health, both long term and short term, on the line at least 16 times a year, not counting training camp, preseason or postseason action.

They do this for our entertainment. They are rarely shown loyalty from the fan base, where one incident, one bad play, can lead to multiple threatening messages sent their way. They also are rarely shown loyalty from the team.

As one Emmett Smith (Doc Bear) said to me,

“The first time the NFL admitted to a link between football and concussions was March of this year.”

Concussions are a very real threat to modern day players, and it is possible to suffer minor concussions without it being noticed. There have been many cases of this problem that have lead to the death of the person before they are 50 years old.

So why shouldn’t a player risking their health want more money when he more than deserves it? What happens to Miller’s family if, God forbid, he suffers serious long term affects to the point that he can’t provide for his family, or ends up passing before his time?

Playing linebacker is the second-most dangerous position when it comes to suffering Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), only to cornerback. Linebackers average 20 TBI’s per year, while cornerbacks come in at 37.

Promising San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired due to serious concerns over the long term effects concussions and brain injuries in general would have on his life after football. What Borland did is becoming more and more common.

These athletes are people, yet many fans can only see them as a player. They have families, friends, and a life. They risk it all whenever they put on a helmet. Maybe, just maybe, we should step back and realize that Von Miller is more than a player.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1663795-von-miller-the-franchise-... That he is risking his life. That one day he may have children he wants to put through college, or take care of in general. That one day, before his time, the NFL world could possibly be mourning his loss, similar to the great Junior Seau. That maybe, these people want more money so they don’t have to worry about it after football. That maybe, if something were to happen to them, their families could be taken care of.

We can demand “loyalty” all we want, but turning on a player because he wants what he feels he deserves isn’t showing loyalty. The team doesn't. Fans often don't. So why should they?

In the case of Von Miller, he was a big reason why Broncos Country is celebrating a Championship, instead of another failed season.

Von Miller is worth more than a two-year $39.8 million dollar deal, or a six-year $114.5 million dollar deal. Six years, $120 million with $60-65 million fully guaranteed over four years—that's what Von Miller is worth. 

I fully expect the deal to get worked out before the July 15 deadline. Both sides continue to talk and negotiate.

I want to give a big thanks to MHH colleague, and friend, Emmett Smith for providing me with multiple articles on information about brain injuries/concussions. Thanks Doc! 

Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Trickel_MHH. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

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