George Paton has until March 16th to decide on the future Hall of Famer.
The man who defined an era of Broncos football could quickly see his career in orange and blue come to an unceremonious end. George Paton has until March 16th to decide on the fate of John Elway’s first draft pick, Von Miller.
There’s little reason to believe it will be an easy decision.
Von Miller, Edge, Denver Broncos
Weight: 250 lbs.
Experience: 10 NFL Seasons
The second pick in the vaunted 2011 NFL Draft, Miller made an immediate impact with 11.5 sacks to go with three forced fumbles, 29 QB hits, and 19 tackles for a loss that helped him earn a Pro Bowl berth as a rookie. Since then he’s notched an additional 94.5 sacks, 23 forced fumbles, 187 QB hits, 116 tackles for a loss, nine fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and two touchdowns.
Miller missed all of the 2020 NFL season after he suffered a freak injury that landed him on Injured Reserve before week one. He is currently set to count for $22,125,000 against the cap if George Paton picks up his team option for the 2021 season. Declining the option would create $18 million in cap space and Von Miller would become a free agent for the first time in his career.
Why the Broncos should bring Miller back
In a word, the man is a legend.
Every year Von Miller holds his annual pass rush summit. Notable attendees over the years include Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett, Khalil Mack, and Chandler Jones. With a reputation as one of the best pass rushers of all time, Miller’s the kind of homegrown Hall of Famer every team pines for.
Brandon McManus and Von Miller are the only remaining members of the roster that sent Peyton Manning off with a Super Bowl ring, and Von was the MVP. Every year there are stories about the influence Miller has as a leader in the locker room, and you can see the impact he has when players like Elvis Dumervil, Justin Hollins, or Shaq Barrett left Denver. He’s the kind of veteran who makes everyone around him better.
It’s really cool how all these edge rushers who left Denver picked 58.
Justin Hollins pic.twitter.com/YTjjZqFz0P
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 1, 2020
In addition, the last time we saw Miller play NFL football, he was really darn good. Box score scouts will point to eight sacks in order to say he declined, but the number ignores Miller’s 63 pressures and the fact he had more than double any other member of the 2019 defense. In fact, Miller’s pressure numbers have been fairly consistent across his last four active seasons, suggesting he has not yet hit any sort of age related wall.
2019: 63 pressures, 8 sacks
2018: 52 pressures, 14.5 sacks
2017: 65 pressures, 10 sacks
2016: 57 pressures, 13.5 sacks
While some can’t overlook Von’s lower sack number in 2019, it has to be said that others foresaw it even before the campaign began. The fact Miller spent the majority of his last healthy season as the only proven pass rusher on the roster due to Bradley Chubb’s injury can’t be overlooked. Opponents built their protection schemes with Miller in mind and devoted extra resources to slow him down. This makes Miller’s most recent production all the more notable.
If the Broncos are concerned about Miller’s 2021 cap hit, there’s an argument to be made that an extension could make sense for both parties. This could allow Paton and the Broncos to create additional cap space and provide Miller a way to retire without ever wearing another jersey. There’s risk involved due to Miller’s age, but some could be overblown. Late in Michael Strahan’s career with the New York Giants, he shed weight to mitigate any loss in quickness so he could function as a pass rusher. There’s already evidence to suggest Miller could do the same if necessary. He’s been elite at the point of attack for the majority of his career, even when he played around 235 lbs.
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) May 16, 2020
Why the Broncos should not bring Miller back
At the time of this writing, Von Miller is currently under criminal investigation.
Miller’s cap hit is comparable to an average starting quarterback. To this point in his career it has remained a team-friendly deal because Von has produced at such a high level. It’s no guarantee that will be the case in 2021, and the free agent edge market has a number of potential alternatives that could come cheaper.
At 32-years-old, Miller has reached an age where most speed rushers see a precipitous decline in their production. While his charting stats from 2019 suggest he is still the dominant force he’d been for the entirety of the 2010’s, he was so displeased with his production that he spent the 2020 off-season reworking his body.
Broncos Von Miller is under criminal investigation by Parker Police Department per @writerkev and me. Josh Hans, Parker Police spokesman confirmed Miller investigation under way.
“We’re not commenting on nature of the allegations. We haven’t completed the investigation.” #9sports
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) January 15, 2021
Without the kind of access to information George Paton has, I can only work with what I do know.
I would pick up Von Miller’s option for the 2021 season. It’s a one year commitment that could provide time to sort out Miller’s long-term status. It would also give Vic Fangio a chance to finally deploy his defense with the top tier edge room he thought he inherited in 2019. I make this decision because it addresses a short-term need with an elite talent and also gives the Broncos flexibility going forward.