After winning SB 50 and the games MVP honor, Von Miller signed a 6 year deal worth $114 million. That was 3 years ago. Since then, Miller and the Denver Broncos have produced 3 seasons without a post season birth and 2 years in a row ending under .500, something that hasn’t happened since the 70’s. Halfway through that lucrative deal for Miller, Denver doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of wins and overall success. So, it begs the question; was/is Von worth quarterback-like money?
Sports contracts are not only based on what you’ve done for the team during the first contract, but what the team predicts you’ll do if resigned. That being said, signing one star player will not automatically insure playoff games and shots at a title. It’s the NFL. You want a league where signing a star can take you to the post season then switch over to the NBA. That’s not a knock on pro hoops it’s simply a fact. Even a QB can’t take a team from zero to hero overnight….just ask Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger. So if you think the only way Von Miller can truly live up to his expensive price tag is by getting into the playoffs then your expectations are simply unrealistic. There’s much to consider when tackling the sticky debate of whether or not a player is living up to his price tag.
Since SB 50, the Broncos have parted ways with all but 3 of their defensive starters such as T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart, Aquib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. In just 3 short years the no fly zone and perhaps one of the most feared defenses in NFL history has transformed to slightly above average. Yet to some fans Von Miller was expected to achieve the same goals as that unit did in 2015. Sure, one could say that John Elway and company could have kept those guys if Von didn’t demand such a rich contract but most of Elway’s reasoning was because those players were on the wrong side of 30, lost a step or were simply expendable. The Duke was under the impression that a guy like Bradley Roby and Justin Simmons could transition into starting rolls with relative ease.
Offensively, only Emmanuel Sanders remains from the SB days. No Legendary QB in Peyton Manning, no ‘at least’ average offensive line and no, not even the same head coach responsible for brining the whole thing together in Gary Kubiak. Since 2015 the offense has been slowly gutted and fans were left watching guys like Trevor Siemian, Jeff Heuerman and CJ Anderson fumble their way through games, making even 1 first down seem like the tallest of tasks. And yet still, some fans expected Von Miller to achieve the same team goals that Manning’s crew and a historic defense did from 2012 to 2015. The counter to that thinking is that Elway should have spent the money on a QB or another playmaker on offense. To that I say…why didn’t they? Joe Flacco will account for over $18 million on the Broncos payroll so it’s obvious Denver can make the room for another mega contract if need be. In 2017, Demaryius Thomas accounted for $12 million of the teams salary. That season, Denver chose to make DT their second big contract guy when, unlike Miller, was never elite at his position save for maybe a season or 2.
In 3 seasons under the new contract, Von Miller has racked up 38 sacks, 183 tackles, 9 forced fumbles and 1 interception. On paper, those are star numbers. Has he had those game changing plays? Certainly not like he did in 2015 but to be fair, the previous rosters haven’t given him that much help. He’s the best player for the Broncos so it’s obvious teams will do their best to game plan him out of a ball game. That being said, Von was still able to average over 12 sacks a season. John Elway did the right thing in signing an elite pass rusher but he should have worked harder and looked closer at who would be the next big money guy in the Mile High City. He chose to pay DT and pray that was enough to help Siemian, Lynch and Keenum turn the Broncos into a competitive offense and one that could provide enough aid to their once proud defense. He chose the wrong guy.
So in order to determine whether or not Von Miller has lived up to his big money contract you must first look as his individual efforts. 12 sacks a year alongside 61 tackles per season. Check. Then look at what he’s achieved and who in fact he’s achieving it with. Demaryius Thomas was paid like a star. He was traded last season to Houston and is now hoping to stay on with the New England Patriots. Every QB post Manning has crashed and burned and Denver’s offensive line has to be one of the worst in the NFL. No Check.
Should a highly paid edge rusher be expected to lead a team to the playoffs alone like some of the greatest QB’s? No. If elite, he should be good enough to lead a defense and come up with some big plays throughout a game, absorb double teams and allow for other guys to make something happen and provide a certain sense of stability to a roster. Denver should have done a better job in their post SB era of building around him. But instead they gambled and let player after player fade away from Denver. Yet fans expected Von to be the same guy and deliver the same championship results.
Is Von still worth the money? Every penny. Has Denver done enough to build around the sack machine? Not even close. However, in 2019, the Broncos might have finally provided the reinforcements needed. Quarterback Joe Flacco is now the second highest paid Bronco so they are in fact paying a QB big time money. They have a stud counter to Von in Bradley Chubb and an offense that SHOULD be much improved with Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton and top 20 pick, Noah Fant. Has the calvary finally arrived for Von Miller? On paper, it sure seems so. Perhaps in 2019, Von can live up to even the most unrealistic of expectations.