DENVER -- Von is not gone.
Intent on keeping arguably their best defensive player in the fold, the Broncos exercised the contract option Tuesday morning on Von Miller, per source, securing the eight-time Pro Bowler's immediate future in Denver.
"I have totally bought into being a Coloradoan for life, let alone a Denver Bronco," Miller posted on his Instagram on Tuesday afternoon. "I want to be here forever, through the thick, the thin, the Super Bowl seasons, the losing seasons. I want to be here forever."
General Manager George Paton indicated earlier this month that he wanted Miller back. His goal was always to keep him, but not before asking the star to take a paycut. Miller declined, but the Broncos decided it was worth paying him $18 million this season, pairing him with Pro Bowler Bradley Chubb and promising third-year player Malik Reed.
A stipulation in Miller’s contract called for a $7 million contract option to be exercised by Tuesday. It's possible the Broncos could revisit talks on an extension to lower Miller's cap hit. For now, however, a source said the organization is unified in keeping Miller, and eager to see him rebound after he missed last season with an ankle injury.
The aim when Miller signed his six-year, $114.5 million contract, the richest ever for a defender, was to finish his career in Denver. While there were hiccups along the way, Miller continues to follow the script even as the Broncos have not followed suit. The Broncos are the first team in NFL history to miss the playoffs in five consecutive years after winning a Super Bowl.
Super Bowl 50 represented the zenith of Miller’s career. He delivered 2.5 sacks, including a strip fumble that led to the Broncos’ first touchdown, a catalytic moment in their 24-10 victory over Carolina.
Age, injury and salary threatened to end Miller’s time in Denver. Miller turns 32 this month, was sidelined all of last season after dislocating his left ankle tendon and finished with eight sacks in 2019, his lowest total since 2013.
Part of the delay with Miller’s status involved an off-field issue. That was cleared up nearly two weeks ago when he was not charged in a criminal domestic abuse allegation investigated by the Parker Police – leaving Miller unlikely to face league discipline. Making the investigation public cost Miller endorsements, a source told Denver7.
With J.J. Watt – a comparable player in performance in age and performance – signing a contract averaging $14 million with $23 million guaranteed a few weeks ago, Miller had a framework for free agency and staying. There was a growing belief among some teammates that he wanted to remain with the Broncos. They are thrilled.
"(It) means a lot. He is the all time Broncos leader in sacks, a future Ring of Famer and in my opinion Hall of Famer," kicker Brandon McManus, the only other remaining player from the Super Bowl 50 team, told Denver7. "You never want to see a team turn their back on that after an injury when he was poised and ready like never before. Von coming back will help this locker room."
Miller worked out at the Broncos’ facility last week, hanging out and meeting Paton. However, this was not a business meeting. He has also been training recently with Cleveland receiver and good friend Odell Beckham Jr., posting about it on his Instagram page.
As the Broncos look to engage in an overdue reshaping, if not rebuilding process, Miller becomes a key leader. Before his ankle injury, Miller showed a new side, following through with his plan to be more demonstrative and demanding of his teammates after being inspired by Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan’s careers.
Drafted second overall in 2011, Miller has lived up to the hype, winning defensive rookie of the year honors. He leads the NFL in sacks (112.5) and ranks second in forced fumbles (27) since entering the league. Only John Elway (nine) has earned more Pro Bowl berths than Miller. Even more impressive, Miller boasts seven seasons of All-Pro honors.
A sure-fire Ring of Famer and Hall of Famer, Miller owns the most sacks in Broncos’ history, and the single-season record of 18.5. He brings value, not only for his dominance on the field, but his personality off it. Former and current teammates rave about Miller’s ability to bond the group through his friendships with players in every corner of the locker room.
Miller’s return also allows him to run it back with Chubb. Because of separate injuries, the pair has only played one full season together with both posted double-digit sacks. Reed provides a valuable reserve after netting eight sacks.
After much discussion and hand-wringing, Von is not gone, leaving him an opportunity to write another chapter in his storied Broncos career.