As the debate rages over the immediate future of Von Miller, reality bites down hard on Denver Broncos GM George Paton, who will inevitably come to rely on others to fill the eight-time Pro Bowler's cleats if the team moves on.
Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory drove home the importance of having two disruptive edge rushers, so if Paton is serious about awakening the "sleeping giant", promoting and developing from within might be worth the effort.
Malik Reed went from going undrafted out of Nevada in 2019 to registering eight sacks in 2020, leading the Broncos. In relief of the injured Miller, Reed provided a glimpse of his future potential.
The 24-year-old pass rusher recently opened up on his goals and NFL aspirations to Pro Football Network's Cody Roark.
“You said eight sacks this year? This year it would be great to set that bar to double-digits, more tackles, more TFLs, quarterback hits, just keep setting that bar high and watch God work because without him none of this would be possible, and I wouldn’t be in this position and I know he has me here for a purpose and for a reason," Reed said.
In a sit-down with Denver7's Troy Renck, Reed revealed that his 2021 outlook starts with that C-word that has been thrown around quite a lot at Broncos HQ.
"You have to consistently get better, and grow," Reed told Renck. "You can't put limitations on what you can do. There are not any. The sky is the limit. If you are not shooting for that, what are your goals, really?"
Reed's production after going undrafted is intriguing. That being said, moving on from Miller would still be a massive gamble that would undoubtedly reshape Paton’s first-ever draft board as a GM.
Paton has up until March 16 to thrash things out with Miller, and he may have to rely on the veteran's loyalty to successfully re-do his contract on a more team-friendly basis. This offseason is already abuzz with rumors and front-office counter-bluffs, but if Paton is ultimately looking for youth and salary-cap value, Reed provides a genuine plan B.
Reed earned the praise of head coach Vic Fangio, who said at season's end that the young edge rusher "took advantage of his opportunity," but when measured against Miller’s game-wrecking ability, it pales in comparison.
Miller is the complete package, whereas even Coach Fangio said of Reed that there's "still a lot of things that he can do better and improve on." Simply cutting Miller loose appears short-sighted but the business demands of the NFL often tilt football logic on its ear.
Having Miller line up alongside Bradley Chubb again, with Reed serving as the No. 3 edge rusher, would instantly provide a trio of fresh pass rushers in rotation. Miller and Chubb combined for 26.5 sacks in 2018. Augmented by Reed's newfound production and that’s a scenario that would surely excite Broncos Country.
Even the most outrageous predictions of a potential Miller departure can't disguise the cold hard facts that fielding a triumvirate of explosive pass rushers to chase down the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert would give the hot-seat Fangio a potential solution to his problems.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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