Von Miller would be loco to take a big pay cut now, unless it’s for love. The Broncos would be crazy to tie up more than 10% of their anticipated cap space on a 32-year-old coming off a season lost to an ankle injury. A season that was immediately preceded by the worst year of a guy’s career.
(Yeah, yeah, Bradley Chubb. Yeah, yeah, double teams. Yeah, yeah, left knee. Eight sacks over 15 games in ’19 is eight sacks over 15 games.)
Let him go.
The salary cap doesn’t give two flips about sentiment. Or nostalgia. Or your neighbor’s replica jerseys. If it did, Peyton Manning wouldn’t have finished his career winning a title in Dove Valley.
If anything, we should thank J.J. Watt and his posse for a little clarity Monday. If Watt’s damaged goods were worth $31 million — $23 million guaranteed — over two years from Arizona, then you can bet your sweet bippy that The Vonster’s reps are setting up shop in the same ballpark.
Watt’s worth $15.5 million? Groovy. The floor for a contract extension starts at $16 million a year.
If I’m Broncos general manager George Paton, that’s when I reach into a drawer and pull out the note card with the thank-you-for-your-service speech. Godspeed, kid. See ya at the Ring of Fame ceremony.
Although if the Broncos and Miller truly were hellbent on a divorce, it probably would’ve happened by now. And if John Elway wasn’t still in the building, pretending the last four years were all a dream, it almost certainly would’ve happened.
There’s an argument to be made that giving coach Vic Fangio a fair shake in 2021 means giving him a full year of Von and Chubb, as nature and Elway always intended.
But, brother, you can start papering over a lot of cracks with $17.5 million in salary and $13.875 million in cap room, which is what the Broncos would save by cutting Miller instead of picking up his team option for 2021.
If Team Von starts pointing at Watt’s new deal, and I’m Paton, that’s the part where I reach into another drawer and pull out the Pro-Football-Reference.com stats.
The ones that say that the Broncos had the same sacks-per-dropback percentage (6.9%) in 2020 without Miller that they did in 2019 with him.
Or that Denver in 2020 actually improved in both hurries-per-dropback (third in the NFL, up from 10th in ’19) and pressures-per-dropback (seventh, up from 18th in ’19).
Was this a better defense without Von? Oh, heck, no.
But was the pass rush appreciably worse? Also … no.
Von or no Von, and the most damning Fangio-era stat that doesn’t involve Drew Lock or timeouts remains in the takeaway column. In 2019, the Broncos ranked 26th in the NFL in opponent drives that ended in a turnover (8.8%). In 2020, they ranked 30th (8.2%).
Unless you’re pairing that with the mother of all ball-control offenses, the NFL equivalent of the Wisconsin Badgers, you’re going to end up running into a world of hurt.
If I’m Paton, I’m tempted to turn Vonster money into playmakers at cornerback and linebacker. Into the kind of ballhawks who can get me the rock back and give offensive coordinators migraines. Enough bending. It’s time to break spirits and crush souls.
The locker room’s got talent. It needs a sheriff. It needs several, now that you mention it.
If The Vonster’s first priority is the scratch, it’s out there. With Watt off the table, Browns linebacker Mack Wilson went onto Twitter on Monday to stump for Miller joining him in Cleveland. Bills Mafia is getting in on the act, too.
Paton, meanwhile, had $42.3 million in cap space to start the week, according to OverTheCap.com, fifth-most in the NFL. Which sounds like a lot, until you get to the fine print. Justin Simmons is going to eat up at least $13.7 million of that if you franchise tag him again. Shelby Harris will probably command twice the $3.1 million the Broncos paid him in 2020, at the minimum.
If the plan at quarterback is Lock plus a safety blanket, Andy Dalton cost the Cowboys $3 million in cap space last fall; Tyrod Taylor, $7.5 million with the Chargers. Tenders to A.J. Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Tim Patrick could knock off at least another $9 million; the 2021 rookie pool is expected to eat up another $9 million on top of that.
You have to pick your battles. Not your favorites.
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