The Broncos set a deadline of 10 p.m. Tuesday to reach an agreement on a long-term contract with Miller, who was the MVP of the team’s Super Bowl 50 win in February.
Absent an agreement, the Broncos have withdrawn their multiyear contract proposal, leaving Miller to play the 2016 season on his $14.129 million franchise tag.
Although the two sides reached a partial agreement in recent days on the years and total value of Miller’s proposed contract – six years worth a total value that slightly exceeded the $143.375 million Miami’s Ndamukong Suh received in 2015 to become the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player – there were significant differences in how the deal was structured.
The key component to NFL contracts is the guaranteed dollars, particularly within the first three years of any deal.
Although the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement gives teams until July 15 to work out a multiyear contract extension with franchised tag players, the Broncos moved up their deadline with Miller because they wanted him to attend to attend the team’s minicamp this week.
Past experiences with Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas provided Broncos general manager John Elway with the motive to move up his deadline on Miller.
Clady received the franchise tag in 2013 and Thomas in 2015. Both missed their entire offseason workout program before signing their long-terms deals prior to training camp in July.
Clady, a former All Pro left tackle, received a five-year, $52.5 million extension, then suffered a season-ending foot injury in Game 2 of 2013, played through rust in 2014 and suffered another season-ending injury on the first day of OTAs in 2015.
When paycut negotiations broke down this year, Clady was traded to the New York Jets. The Broncos wound up paying $33 million in three years of that Clady extension.
Thomas received a five-year, $70 million deal last summer and although he had 105 catches in 2015, his yards per catch went down from 15.1 in the first five years of his career to 12.4, his touchdowns decreased from 11 in 2014 to six in 2015 and his drops went up.
One problem the Broncos and Miller’s camp confronted during negotiations was the difference between fair value in the open, free-agent market, and the franchise tag market.
The Broncos have the right under the CBA to slap the franchise tag on Miller each year for three consecutive years at $14.129 million this year, $16.955 million in 2017 and $24.4 million for 2018. That’s a three-year total of $55.48 million.
The Broncos believe they have been more than fair with Miller because their offer significantly exceeded the first, second and third-year franchise tag amounts.
Miller’s camp, led by agent Joby Branion, points out his dominance – he all but singlehandedly won Super Bowl 50 with his two strip sacks that led to two touchdowns in a two touchdown victory – and the fact nearly every other first-round standout from the 2011 draft received contract extensions before they became eligible for free agency.
Miller’s reps refered not only to Suh’s contract, but the recent $17 million a year deal the New York Giants gave defensive lineman Olivier Dean that included $29 million in year one cash. Vernon has 29.0 career sacks and no playoff appearances. Miller has 60.0 career sacks and 6.5 more in the postseason.
It’s unclear whether Miller will play on the $14.129 million tag. It’s possible he could sit out the season because that would prevent the Broncos from again applying the “exclusive” franchise tag next year.