Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller signed a 6-year, $114.5-million deal with Denver Broncos on Friday, July 15, 2016, before the deadline for signing franchise-tagged players to long-term extensions expired. The deal includes a $17-million signing bonus, an average yearly salary of $19.08 million, and $70 million guaranteed.
Miller and his agent, Joby Branion of Vanguard Sports Group, rejected a 1-year, $14.129-million deal (exclusive franchise tag) from the Broncos on March 1, 2016.
The historic deal, along with rejecting that one-year deal, should not come as a surprise. Miller has recorded 60 sacks, 260 tackles, and 17 forced fumbles during his five-year career and been named a First-Team All-Pro four times (2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015).
Altogether, while the Texas native signed the richest contract ever by a non-QB in NFL history, the dead cap situation, as well as the contract structure in total, reveals the true terms of the deal.
For the 2016-17 season, Miller, the second overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, will earn $25 million guaranteed —$2 million base salary, $17 million signing bonus, and $6 million roster bonus. By July 29, 2016 (i.e. within 14 days after he agreed to the contractual terms), Miller will have received $23 million.
Additionally, the ’17 dead money number (i.e. “the amount of cap space taken up by players no longer on the roster“) is $30.6 million, whereas the salary cap number (base salary ($17 million) + prorated signing bonus ($3.4 million)) is $20.4 million. Thus, if the Broncos cut Miller after one season, which is damn near impossible, the team would lose $10.2 million for salary cap purposes. So again, Denver is NOT releasing Miller next offseason.
For the 2017-18 season, the former Texas A&M star will earn a base salary of $17 million, which is fully guaranteed. Thus, the total guaranteed money for the first two years of the deal is $42 million. Miller’s base salary peaks at $19 million for the 2018-19 season, but it is an injury-only guarantee. To that extent, this salary figure will become fully guaranteed if Miller is on the team on March 17, 2018, bringing Miller’s three-year guaranteed total to $61 million.
Moreover, Miller’s base salary for the 2019-20 season is $17.5 million; again, it is an injury-only guarantee. However, $9 million of that will be guaranteed if Miller is on the roster in March 2018. Thus, Miller will earn $78.5 million over the first four years, $70 million of which is guaranteed by March 2018.
It is important to note that Miller’s earnings in 2020 ($17.5 million base salary + $500,000 workout bonus) and 2021 ($17.5 million base salary + $500,000 workout bonus), a total of $36 million, are not guaranteed.
When is the best time for Denver to release Miller for salary cap purposes?
Sifting through the numbers reveals that 2018 is the best time for Broncos Executive VP of Football Operations/GM John Elway & Co. to cut Miller for salary cap purposes. The dead salary cap hit for 2018 is $10.2 million, while the salary cap number is $22.4 million. As a result, if the Broncos were to release Miller, then the team would save $12.2 million in salary cap.
However, the team will save $14.1 million if they cut him in 2019 ($6.8 million in dead salary cap; $20.9 million salary cap number) and $18 million if they cut him in 2020 ($3.4 million in dead salary cap; $21.4 million salary cap number). But the point remains that 2018 represents the first time within the contract that the Broncos would save money by releasing their star outside linebacker.
Now you may be asking why I’m posing this question in the first place. Well, Miller’s production level may drop, meaning that Miller is not worth the price of admission so to speak, and/or Denver has a slew of expiring contracts for younger, high-potential players upcoming and therefore need to be re-signed.
Above all, it is essentially a 2-year, $42-million deal or a 3-year, $70-million deal, depending on how much Elway truly values Miller’s production going forward and what the prospects are surrounding the rest of the roster’s contract situations.
- OverTheCap, Von Miller Contract Details, available at http://overthecap.com/player/von-miller/2/
- Spotrac, Von Miller Current Contract, available at http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/denver-broncos/von-miller/
Mike Klis, Von Miller is a Bronco: Signs record 6-year contract, KUSA, available at http://www.9news.com/mb/sports/nfl/denver-broncos/mike-klis/von-miller-is-a-bronco-reaches-agreement-on-six-year-contract/274328718
- Mike Florio, The Von Miller contract details, Pro Football Talk, available at http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2016/07/15/the-von-miller-contract-details/