The Denver Broncos and linebacker Von Miller are currently engaged in an expensive game of chicken, with the former trying to minimize the payday they give to the reigning Super Bowl MVP and the latter angling to get the long-term job security and big-money contract he believes is rightfully his. While the Broncos offered Miller a six-year deal with a maximum value of $114.5 million earlier in June, the contract only included two years of up-front guarantees, earning him just under $40 million. Miller, meanwhile, wanted three years of guarantees that would push the money closer to $70 million. The two sides could not agree on the third year and things went sour—Miller has said he will not play 2016 on the $14.1 million franchise tag, which he has yet to sign, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported this week that talks between the two sides have “gone cold,” and it’s entirely possible that Miller sits out the entire season without a new deal being put in place. Miller and the Broncos have until July 15 to get a long-term contract worked out; otherwise, his only option to be compensated for playing is the tag cash.
So what does this have to do with the Cleveland Browns? Well, they just happen to have enough salary cap space lying around to give Miller exactly what he wants, while at the same time having spent much of the offseason thus far trying to find solutions to improve the aggressiveness of their defense. Approaching the Broncos with a trade inquiry wouldn’t be a bad idea; granted, the Broncos could say no way, preferring instead to try to get an 11th-hour deal completed in order to keep Miller on the team. But, as the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing earned,” and the Browns should at least consider broaching the topic with Broncos general manager John Elway.
In 2015, the Browns had 29 sacks as a team. In contrast, the Broncos had 52 total and 11 of those were Miller’s. But Miller brings more to the table than just sacking quarterbacks, though he does have 60 to his name over his first five seasons in the NFL. Even his pressures that did not result in sacks—49 as compiled by Football Outsiders and reported by Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier—affected quarterbacks heavily last season. Those pressures directly led to 24 incomplete passes and two interceptions. He also made a massive impact against the run. Of his 21 tackles made last season against running backs, 16 were stops and four were complete defeats, and he gave up an average of only 1.6 yards per rush on plays that came his way. His impact in Cleveland would be immediate.
Financially speaking, Miller’s demands can easily be met by the Browns. Using the six-year contract extension the Philadelphia Eagles recently gave to Fletcher Cox can provide some degree of a blueprint for what Miller’s contract could look like. Cox’s deal has a maximum value of $102.6 million—so less than what the Broncos’ offer was to Miller—but the $63.299 million in guarantees is much closer to the amount Miller would like from a new deal. Of those guarantees, $36.299 million was guaranteed at signing—his signing bonus, his 2016 and 2017 salaries and his 2017 option bonus. Meanwhile, his 2018 salary of $11.5 million guarantees fully in March 2017, something that Miller may be amenable to; the original Denver deal did not have the third year guaranteed until 2018, when Miller was apparently concerned would serve as the de facto termination date rather than a marker of when he’d be making more money.
With this structure, Miller could start with a $10 million cap hit that rises to $18-19 million in 2017, and another $22 to $24 million in 2018. The remanning guarantees could then be in the form of a salary percentage (with trigger date) and prorated signing, roster and/or option bonuses to get him to the near $70 million in total on-paper guarantees that he has been seeking. With the Browns approaching the $41 million mark in current cap space and the assumption that the per-team cap will also rise by $10 million per year, as it has over the past few years, and Cleveland can more than afford to absorb Miller’s high cost. He’s also worth every penny—if the Browns could somehow pull off a successful trade for Miller, it would be the biggest, best and most significant roster addition in a very long time.
This is all, of course, hypothetical. But if talks truly have died out between the Broncos and Miller and don’t seem prime for reanimation as the July 15 deadline approaches, Miller’s camp would more likely than not be open to hearing from the Browns. Miller does the Broncos no help if he refuses the tag and does not play so a trade could be easier to pull off than it seems. Though this trade may never become a reality, it is realistic and given the circumstances surrounding Miller’s contract situation, it’s a possibility worth exploring.