No one has been tougher on the Denver Broncos’ bargaining positions than the Philadelphia Eagles.
First, the Eagles escalated the quarterback market by paying $18 million this year to Sam Bradford and $17 million in 2017. That was likely a factor in Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler bolting for the Houston Texans, who paid him $18 million a year for four seasons.
Now the Philadelphia Eagles have given defensive tackle Fletcher Cox a six-year contract extension on top of the $7.799 million he was already making this season. ESPN reported the guaranteed portion of Cox’s contract is $63 million, which would set a record among NFL defensive players.
Does this mean the Broncos will lose Von Miller, too?
As negotiations between the Broncos and Miller have become increasingly contentious, the market has seemingly increased the price tag on the Broncos’ star, pass-rushing linebacker.
Last year, the Miami Dolphins gave defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh a six-year, $114.375 million contract that included $60 million in full guarantee.
This offseason, the New York Giants gave defensive lineman Olivier Vernon a deal that paid out a whopping $29 million in year one and averages $17 million per. Vernon has 29.0 career sacks, counting playoffs, to Miller’s 66.5.
And now Cox, a defensive tackle with 22.0 career sacks counting playoffs, sets a defensive-player record in binding cash.
The Broncos most recently offered Miller a six-year, $114.5 million that would be a record for NFL defensive players in terms of its $19.083 million annual average, but is well shy of Suh in guaranteed dollars.
The Broncos have offered Miller $38.5 million in full guarantee over the first two years of their contract proposal, plus another $1.3 million in workout bonuses for $39.8 million. The team has also offered roughly $19 million, guaranteed against injury only for the third year of the deal.
Injury guarantee, though, does not prevent a team from cutting a player for lack of performance as it compares to the money he’s making. Hundreds of players over the years would say an “injury” guarantee is no guarantee at all.
Even with Cox’s $63 million guarantee coming in over four years -- $55.2 million over three years in “new” money, while Suh’s $60 million is over three seasons and the Broncos’ offer of $58 million to $59 million in guarantees to Miller is over three years – it can’t be argued the Eagles just guaranteed more dollars to Cox than the Broncos are offering to Miller.
For Cox, another key to his guarantee would be an early trigger mechanism that converts a third-year, injury-only guarantee to a full guarantee after the first season of his extension.
When a player has two years of full guarantee, he is virtually assured of not getting cut after his first season. Thus the early-trigger language after season one virtually assures the third season will be fully guaranteed.
Cox is represented by Todd France, who got the early trigger for a third-year conversion from injury to full guarantee on the contract of Buffalo defensive tackle Marcel Dareus and it’s believed the agent got the same early trigger in Cox’s deal.
The early trigger in converting an injury guarantee to a full guarantee is unusual, but not unprecedented. Several players had it in their contracts, including Suh, Dareus and quarterbacks Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, among others.
It’s believed that Miller’s agent Joby Branion, who just negotiated a four-year contract extension for San Diego Chargers’ receiver Keenan Allen, is also asking for the early trigger on Miller’s third-year guarantee. So far, the Broncos aren’t willing to convert the third-year, injury-only guarantee to a full guarantee until year three.
Negotiations between the Broncos and Miller, who was shackled with the “exclusive” franchise tag by the team on March 1, appeared to break off last Tuesday. Although franchise-tagged players have until July 15 to reach a deal on a long-term contract, the Broncos issued the 10 p.m. Tuesday deadline because general manager John Elway wanted Miller to attend the team’s minicamp last week.
The Broncos had gone through similar offseason holdouts of franchise-tagged players Ryan Clady and Demaryius Thomas. When agreements were reached, each player followed with disappointing seasons. And besides Miller, the Broncos are also negotiating contract extensions with linebacker Brandon Marshall and receiver Emmanuel Sanders. A deal with Marshall has a league-mandated deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday because he is a restricted free agent.
The Broncos' self-imposed deadline with Miller came with a threat they would withdraw their offer and not make any more multiyear proposals.
That deadline has come and gone, but it’s possible the Broncos may have softened on their ultimatum. Elway did pull Miller aside for a private conversation Sunday night during the team’s Super Bowl ring party.
Cox’ new deal did the Broncos no favors. If the Broncos are to reach an agreement with Miller they may have to, one, increase their guarantee beyond $63 million; and two, move up that third-year full guarantee trigger from year three to after year one of Miller’s contract.
If no multiyear agreement is reached by the league-mandated deadline of July 15, Miller would have to either play the 2016 season on the $14.129 million franchise tag – or refuse to play on the tag.