ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos’ summer break began with an ominous message from superstar Von Miller. The Super Bowl MVP suggested he’ll sit out the 2016 season if general manager John Elway doesn’t meet his contract demands in the next month.
One day after saying on Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix show that there was no way he’d consider skipping the season, Miller posted a photo on Instagram on Thursday that said: “I love my Teammates, Coaches, and My Fans” but there is “No Chance” I play the 2016 season under the Franchise tag.”
If the sides can’t agree on a long-term extension by July 15, Miller would have to play this season on the franchise tag of $14.129 million – or he could choose to sit out the season altogether.
If he played for the tender, the Broncos could use their exclusive franchise tag on him again next year, putting him in the same situation.
If he didn’t suit up in 2016, they’d only be able to use a non-exclusive franchise tag on him in 2017. That would allow other teams to swoop in and offer him a megadeal that would be difficult for Denver to match.
That’s a risky proposition, a superstar missing a season in his prime and watching his popularity and marketability take a hit. But playing on a one-year deal could also prove hazardous to Miller should he get hurt.
The offseason began with Miller declaring 12 hours after the Super Bowl in which he starred that his contract negotiations would be peaceful.
Acrimony set in last week, however, when the team leaked details of its offer that Miller’s camp rejected.
The six-year, $114.5 million offer included $38.5 million in guarantees over the first two seasons, far below the going rate for elite players. The Broncos offered a third year at $19.5 million that would only kick in after the 2017 season.
Miller wants that third year fully guaranteed from the start. His price assuredly has risen in the last week, too, because a couple of days after the negotiations between Miller and the Broncos hit a standstill, Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox signed a six-year extension that runs through 2022 and includes $63 million in guarantees.
That’s the most for a non-quarterback. And he’ll get $55 million of that within the first nine months because a big portion of the guaranteed money kicks in a month after the next Super Bowl.
This would seem to set both a new benchmark and blueprint for a megadeal with Miller, who was a one-man wrecking crew of Cam Newton in Denver’s 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl four months ago after clobbering Tom Brady in the AFC Championship.
After collecting five sacks in the playoffs, Miller skipped the team’s offseason program that wrapped up Thursday with a final weight lift and a team photo. His only appearances with teammates came this month when he accompanied them on their White House visit and to their championship ring ceremony at their stadium.
At that ring ceremony, Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe took a serving tray and turned it into a collection plate, imploring everybody to pitch in and help GM John Elway sign Miller. The tongue-in-cheek gesture actually netted some greenbacks.
After the Broncos took a pause in talks with Miller’s agent and pivoted to finishing a four-year, $32 million deal with linebacker Brandon Marshall, Miller took his first social media swipe at Elway.
He cropped his boss out of a photo teammate DeMarcus Ware originally posted on Instagram that featured Miller, Ware, coach Gary Kubiak, Peyton Manning and Elway.
Miller appeared to extend an olive branch to the front office on Wednesday when he made an appearance on Chelsea Handler’s new show on Netflix and said he’s still hoping for a long-term deal to get done: “The franchise tag, it’s a one-year deal. I would like a little bit more stability. I want to be a Bronco forever. I just want the feeling to be the same from the Broncos.”
When Handler asked him if there’s a chance he’d sit out the upcoming season, Miller said: “No, I mean … we still have a month. I just can’t see myself with any other team. My boys – T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib, Kayvon Webster, DeMarcus Ware, all those guys, I built very, very close relationships with those guys, and I would like to continue to build that for the rest of my career.”
Then came Thursday’s Instagram salvo when he made it clear he wants an extension or else.
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