ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Got to give Von Miller credit. For a first-time free agent, he knows how to generate interest in his market.
The longtime Denver Bronco was traded at the halfway mark of last season to the Los Angeles Rams, where he had 2.0 sacks in their Super Bowl victory last month against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now vacationing with family members on a Caribbean island, Miller wasn’t just golfing and hanging out at the beach, although there was that. He was also able to trend on social media thanks to a post Sunday indicating he wanted a return to the Rams with an Instagram post: "RUN IT BACK,” and again Monday when he indicated a return to the Broncos by first posting an action photo in Broncos uniform followed by a tweet that said, “I kinda want that old thing back … 5280.”
To be clear, there is no secret deal between the Broncos and his agent Joby Branion. In fact, the odds are against Miller returning to either of his two teams from 2021. But the odds are shorter than they were before Miller’s social media posts. An open door lends more possibility than a closed door.
We’ll bite. We’ll play along with Von and list reasons why he could return to the Broncos, and why he may not.
Reasons why Von could return to the Broncos
— The Broncos will be trying to sign a quality pass rusher next week when free agency opens for negotiating Monday.
"That’s a need," general manager George Paton said during a sit-down interview with 9NEWS last week. "We have a few others. We’re excited for Bradley Chubb that he gets a full offseason where he doesn’t have to rehab. He can just work on his craft. We like the way he finished. I’m high on Malik Reed, high on Jonathon Cooper.
"But I think when you watch these teams late in the playoffs, they all had guys who could come (get the passer). You need three or four. Because you wave those guys (in and out). I just think pass rush is really important, especially in this league."
Miller will be the No. 1 pass rusher on the free-agent market, followed by Arizona’s Chandler Jones, Tennessee’s Harold Landry (if he doesn’t receive the franchise tag), Dallas’ Randy Gregory, Carolina’s Hasaan Reddick, Miami’s Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland’s Jadeveon Clowney and Kansas City’s Melvin Ingram III.
— Miller still has his house/mansion here in the Denver area. He became the Super Bowl 50 MVP to finish his fifth season with the Broncos, then became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history for the 2016-17 seasons. He was traded to the Rams, along with $9 million, to the Rams in exchange for second-round (No. 64 overall) and third-round (No. 96 overall) draft picks halfway through his 11th season with the Broncos.
— Von’s son, Valor B’Vsean Miller, who is not quite 7 months old, still lives in Denver. Miller has proudly posted several social media videos and messages of his young son.
Reasons why Von won’t return to the Broncos
— The Broncos don’t have a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. The Super Bowl made Von Miller. In his two Super Bowl appearances, one with the Broncos in 2015 and 2021 with the Rams, he combined for 4.5 sacks and two rings. Miller is going to turn 33 next month. At this stage in his career, with his bank account presumably well-funded, playing in a Super Bowl is priority No. 1.
If the Broncos first land Aaron Rodgers from the Packers, then Miller would go from teasing a return on social media to staying quiet and having his agent Joby Branion seriously try to work on Paton for a return. Landing Rodgers, though, would present a potential Catch-22 for Von because …
— If the Broncos pay $50 million a year to land Rodgers, they may not have another $18 million per year to sign Miller. Keep in mind, the Broncos are trying to sell the team. It’s unlikely they’re going to have a cash payroll that much exceeds the $208.2 million salary cap, if at all. They did last year – spending $206 million in actual cash, according to a team source, on player salaries when the salary cap was $182.5 million.
But when attracting sellers, it’s not wise to show an overflow expenditure.
— New culture means new, not a return of the old. The Broncos didn’t just fire head coach Vic Fangio and replace him with the more vibrant personality that is Nathaniel Hackett, they replaced nearly the entire coaching staff.
Nothing against Fangio’s coaches. Hackett just wanted a fresh group of assistants who will learn and follow his way of doing things.
It wasn’t Miller’s fault that the Broncos are coming off five consecutive losing seasons and six years without a playoff appearance. But fair or not, Von was part of the old guard – even if he, too, is a positive, enthusiastic spirit who would fit well with Hackett’s personality.
— Multiple teams are interested in Miller. If the bidding for Von were between the Rams and Broncos, Denver would have a chance. But Miller may draw interest from half the league. Again, if the Broncos land Rodgers, it would be difficult for them to keep up with, say the Los Angeles Chargers in a bidding war for Miller. The Chargers already have a top 10, if not a top 5 quarterback in Justin Herbert, who will draw a relatively meager $3.3 million cash in 2022.
Besides, Von wouldn’t have to pay moving expenses (although he would still be subject to those dastardly California state taxes).
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