Making tough decisions is the name of the game when it comes to being an NFL general manager. While many fans call for their team’s personnel shot-callers to make decisions based on their hearts and nostalgia, it is up to Denver Broncos GM George Paton to make the best choices and put the team in the best position to succeed — not just in 2021 but going forward.
One of, if not the, single most onerous choices Paton must make this offseason is what to do with Von Miller. Miller is arguably the organization’s greatest defensive player of all-time, but just like DeMarcus Ware didn’t finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys, it does seem increasingly possible that Miller won't close his career in Denver.
Fans want to know why would the Broncos even consider moving on from Miller. While the salary cap is significantly lower than what teams projected it to be before the pandemic, Miller has the most movable contract now that A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey have been released.
With an option on March 17 that could save the Broncos $18 million at the cost of $4.225 million in dead cap, Paton could create a lot of salary-cap room quickly by not exercising Miller's option. The ankle injury that cost him all of last season further complicates the current contract for the soon-to-be 32-year-old edge rusher.
Insider Mike Klis revealed some insight to 9NEWS host Rod Mackey this week on whether the Broncos are likely to restructure Miller’s contract to make his cap hit far more digestible in 2021. With some optimism in that realm following a recent Ian Rapoport report, Klis splashed some cold water on that hope in the wake of the Arizona Cardinals’ signing of J.J. Watt and what it could mean for Miller’s value:
I think what this means is J.J. Watt got $15.5 million, then Von Miller if he’s on the open market, then he can expect $15.5 million. That’s of course if his off-field situation gets resolved favorable for him. I would think it’s going to be difficult to give Von a meaningful pay-cut now. George Paton, I think, would like Von back but at a reduced deal. Now I think it’s going to be difficult to really diminish that contract.
In a vacuum, there is no doubt that the Broncos would be best served to retain Miller for 2021. He's still one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and while he is entering his age-32 season, Miller still probably has 3-to-5 years of extremely good football left.
Before suffering that season-ending ankle injury in training camp, Miller was reportedly dominating each of his reps and looking as formidable as ever. If he wasn’t coming off of a statistical down season in terms of sacks in 2019 and was healthy in 2020, perhaps Miller's cap hit this season would be seen as the cost of business.
However, the reality is, Miller is on the wrong side of 30, coming off of an injury that should raise concern given how important the ankle is for turning the corner as a speed rusher and the burst off the line of scrimmage.
Will Paton and Miller’s camp be able to work out some sort of renegotiated contract? With Watt getting $15.5M per season, Klis hints that the cost for Miller might simply be too much.
Here’s to hoping the two sides can come to some sort of agreement to keep Miller in Denver for the foreseeable future, but it might be time for Broncos Country to start mentally preparing for life after Miller.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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