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How does J.J. Watt's signing impact Broncos' situation with Von Miller?

Denver must decide by March 16 whether to pick up contract option
Von Miller Broncos
Posted at 5:13 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 08:25:46-05

DENVER -- As the final seconds ticked away in Super Bowl 50, Von Miller became delirious with joy. He yelled, hugged and smiled, reveling in the Broncos' championship, a title earned by a gnarly defense that Miller fueled with a game MVP performance.

What a rush.

The Broncos wanted to live in those snapshots forever.

However, they have aged like sushi since that night, becoming the first franchise to miss the playoffs in five consecutive years after a title. The losing, the required rebuilding and the economics have conspired to create a difficult decision on Miller's future. He is due $18 million in 2021, and a decision must be made by March 16 on a $7 million option as part of his contract.

Miller turns 32 this month, missed all of last season after dislocating his left ankle tendon and his eight sacks in 2019 were his fewest since 2013.

Also, On Feb. 23 the Parker Police Department submitted a case regarding allegations against Miller to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office for review, but no decision has been made whether to file charges. There is no timeline on whether to charge Miller, but a decision could be made this week.

If no charges are filed, that would help Miller whether he stays with the Broncos or hits the open market.

No one questions Miller's resume -- he is a Ring of Famer and a Hall of Famer - but does it make sense to bring him back with so many other holes to fill on the Broncos defense? The Broncos need help at cornerback, linebacker, and possibly safety if they let Kareem Jackson walk (a decision is due on his $1.5 million option on March 16 as well).

As it relates to Miller, Monday brought a new wrinkle. Free agent J.J. Watt agreed to a two-year, $31 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals that includes $23 million guaranteed, according to ESPN. Watt and Miller are similar in age -- both turn 32 this month -- and production, and have dealt with injuries, though Watt was healthy last season.

Does this contract impact the Broncos regarding Miller's situation?

The simple answer is not really.

There’s been no movement yet on Miller's situation, according to sources. New general manager George Paton is logging long hours -- first one in the building, last one out -- as he tries to make the puzzle pieces fit on his first roster. And Joby Branion, Miller's agent, is shrewd and will have Miller informed on whether he should take a pay cut, if asked, and what is market will be if becomes a free agent

Monday, if nothing else, provides a fraction of clarity on the market. It gives the Broncos and Miller an idea of what his value might be as a free agent.

It also raises the question if Watt is the ceiling for a player like Miller or the floor? As a free agent, Miller could ask for more than Watt -- as is every free agent's wont to do -- with a straight face. Would he get it? There's no question there will be interest in Miller if he becomes available. That is part of the pause in the Broncos' thinking. How do you let a player like that go?

What the Broncos must consider is that their defense needs massive help, and every dollar counts. The Broncos ranked 25th in points (27.9) and rushing yards allowed (130,0) and 29th in takeways with 16, four of which came in the final meaningless game. This is a unit that requires one starting cornerback, if not two -- would they draft Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II and sign someone like the Steelers' Mike Hilton? And they require more versatility at inside linebacker where somebody like Minnesota's Eric Wilson could figure into the mix given his skill for producing turnovers.

And what about the defensive line? Mike Purcell should be fine to return from a lisfranc injury, but the Broncos will look to add a veteran if they are unable to sign Shelby Harris (they are interested in bringing him back, depending on his market).

One thing appears certain. Free safety Justin Simmons will be back. He fits the draft and development model espoused by Paton. He is a Pro Bowler, an All-Pro, a leader in the locker room and in the community. He is exactly the type of player a franchise aims to reward -- and the locker room will be watching.

It seems unlikely the sides agree to a longterm deal before March 9 -- the deadline for franchise tags -- but a second franchise tag would buy the sides until July 15 to negotiate with some confidence they will find common ground.

Simmons figures to anchor the defense. That was once Von's role. He can still be a productive player, everyone agrees on this. But at what price? That remains the question even as Watt's signing provided a peek at the economic parameters.