A perceived dispute over guaranteed money, which has now become a stand against how NFL free agents are limited on the open market, will eventually come to a head Friday afternoon when the Denver Broncos and linebacker Von Miller either come to terms on a new contract or the Super Bowl MVP will stick to his guns and stage a hold out.
Ever since Denver raised its third Vince Lombardi Trophy in February, the two sides have haggled back and forth on a new deal and rather than risk destabilizing an already sensitive salary cap situation, Broncos president John Elway may entertain the idea and execute a trade if he thinks its in the team’s best interest.
As of today, Miller refuses to play under the $14.1 million franchise tag that Denver placed on him earlier this year. The tag keeps Miller from talking to other teams, but Denver only has until Friday at 4 p.m. ET to speak exclusively with Miller. After that, negotiations can’t continue until January 2, 2017, when the Broncos regular season ends.
Miller, who’s posted 60.0 sacks his first five seasons in the league but especially came up huge for Denver with 5.0 total sacks during their championship run, told ESPN he’s actually taking a stand against the current free agency system rather than griping over guaranteed dollars.
“I’ve never really played for money,” Miller said on ESPN . “It’s bigger than that for me. It’s a league-wide problem that I feel like I’m in a situation to help out with.”
Even though a framework of $114.5 million is already in place, Miller and the Broncos are reportedly stuck on the total amount of guaranteed money, and rightly so. Miller’s unlikely to see all of that $114.5 million and he’s insisting on as much as $60 million in guarantees. Yet Denver offered about $38 million, which shows a very wide gap between the Pro Bowler and the front office.
Miller’s potential holdout does appear to be causing some strife with one Bronco. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe made a not-so-subtle comment on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday.
"Business is business, and that's his business. And he has to do what he's got to do," Wolfe, who took a pay cut earlier this year, said. "Obviously, I took a different route and decided that this is where I wanted to be so I'm going to take a significant haircut to stay here and that's fine with me. But some people don't feel that way."
With only three days left until the deadline, the Broncos will have to determine whether Miller is truly serious about his holdout and willing to sit down for the entire 2016 season. That seems to be a highly unlikely scenario, but Denver could miss its best defensive player during its Super Bowl title defense and as USA Today points out it cannot then place the “exclusive” franchise tag on Miller in 2017.
The report also stresses that that deadline could also shut down the possibility of trading Miller to the highest bidder. The Broncos and another team could come to terms on a trade involving draft picks and other players, and the asking price could be much higher if the receiving team knows it has the opportunity to ink Miller to a long-term deal. But once Friday afternoon passes, Denver might not field as many calls since Miller could hold out or just play with a team for one year and move on.
If Broncos fans are tired of the offseason fiasco it’s more than understandable, except Elway is clearly looking down the line to future free agent classes and he may be more prudent after spending millions on Demaryius Thomas, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and C.J. Anderson.
For one, a number of the Broncos top players will be unrestricted or restricted free agents in 2017 and Elway will need cap space and guaranteed dollars to offer them or their potential replacement. Veteran pass rusher DeMarcus Ware will likely be gone, but Elway would like the option of replacing him with an experienced edge rusher who won’t come cheap. There’s also receiver Emmanuel Sanders, quarterback Mark Sanchez, and free safety Darian Stewart. Not to mention running back Ronnie Hillman, strong safety T.J. Ward, and restricted free agent running back Juwan Thompson.
Currently, the Broncos have a little more than $5 million in salary cap space and that will balloon to $51 million in 2017. However, with so many players scheduled to hit the open market it makes perfect sense for Denver to play hard ball with Miller and keep as much space as possible.