DENVER — Von is gone.
Von Miller rode off as the passenger in a black Cadillac Escalade Monday afternoon, traded to the Los Angeles Rams. The reality of his exit clobbered Miller over the head, leaving him numb as he bid an emotional goodbye.
"It's always tough whenever you leave. I love all my fans. I love Broncos country. When I said Broncos for life, I meant that. It was an honor and a privilege to play here. John Elway picked me. It's life changing. Ever since then, I've been able to play with Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Tim Tebow. All of these guys, man. It's an honor and a privilege. It's still kind of hard to put into words. Still kind of raw," Miller said, eyes watering and voice cracking as he exited UCHealth Training Center.
"It's tough. It's still hard. You can't really put it into words. Somebody told me once if you want to make God laugh, then make plans. Got to keep going and keep taking it one day at a time. Got a beautiful baby boy (Valor) and had a lot of beautiful years here. Have a lot of great memories here. Lot of great teammates. Lot of great coaches. Lot of great fans. I'll never forget all those people."
Arguably the best defensive player in franchise history, Miller saw his career in Denver come to an end Monday as the team agreed in principle on a trade to the Los Angeles Rams for second- and third-round picks in 2022, according to sources.
Broncos general manager George Paton facilitated the trade by eating roughly $9 million of his remaining $9.7 million salary this season. That dramatically increased the draft pick compensation in return, making the move viable for a transitioning Broncos team was unlikely to sign Miller as a free agent in the off-season. If Von had signed elsewhere — the likely outcome — the Broncos could have received no better than a fifth round compensatory pick in 2023 based on his years experience in the league. As many as four teams expressed interest in Miller, according to a source, helping increase the return for the former All-Pro.
Miller, 32, is the Broncos all-time sacks leader, the Super Bowl 50 MVP, and an almost-certain Hall of Famer and Broncos Ring of Famer.
Miller did not play Sunday, needing more time for his left ankle to heal. I was told Von did not sit out because of a pending deal. He told Denver7 Monday he didn't expect to be moved.
"It was a surprise. You see this stuff in the media every year for the last four years, you see it. You never know," Miller said. "This team, they're going to start winning soon. They have a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches here. The staff is amazing. I wanted to be a part of it to fix it. you've got to keep moving. Got to keep moving."
Following the trade, which will become official on Tuesday and addressed by Paton, Von met with teammates, president John Elway, coach Vic Fangio and Paton.
While the news was jarring given Miller's legendary status, it was not a shock. The Broncos boast a 4-4 record and lack a victory over a team with a winning record. Miller has played well, posting 4.5 sacks in seven games before hurting his ankle at Cleveland after all but guaranteeing a victory.
The move gives Paton a cache of picks to acquire a veteran quarterback or move up in the draft for one. Last offseason, the Broncos expressed interest in Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and DeShaun Watson. They are expected to be a player for a QB this offseason.
Trading Miller makes sense given the state of the franchise. It doesn't make Monday any easier, including for one of the best players in franchise history who was whisked away in the snow.
"It's all kind of numb. It's all kind of new. I'm on my way to L.A.. Great team. Been a huge fan of Aaron Donald for a long time. They've got a great defense. Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, all these guys. I'm excited. I've always been a team guy. I've always been a great teammate. I'm going to continue to do the same thing," said Von, before pausing after the last question.
"I will always have Super Bowl 50. Seeing the pictures as I was walking out made me tear up. We always got Super Bowl 50. Always got Broncos Country. Yeah (I hope to come back as Ring of Famer and Hall of Famer), 100 percent that's what about. For sure. Thank you guys."
Paton provided the following statement on Miller:
“Von and I had a positive, honest conversation this morning about our team as well as his own future. As I told Von, we wanted to do right not only for the Broncos but also for him personally with everything he has meant to this organization.
“While it’s certainly not easy to part ways with a player like Von, this is an opportunity for both our team and for Von as he begins the next chapter of his career.
“Von will forever be a Broncos legend—He’s a future Hall of Famer who’s been part of so many big wins, record-setting performances and special moments. I’ll always be a big fan of his, and I look forward to watching his continued impact in our league.
“As we build this team for sustained success, our mindset does not change: Our goal is to win. I’m confident in the players and our leadership, and we’re excited for the second half of the season.”
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said it has been a "privilege" to coach Miller for three seasons.
"I have great appreciation for what Von means to the Broncos as a player, teammate and ambassador. It’s tough to say goodbye, and I’ll miss him personally as he begins this next part of his outstanding career.
“George and I had several conversations as this trade got closer, and we’re on the same page with this opportunity. In speaking with our captains and the team today, I told them I believe in our players. Our mindset is to move forward together, improve and win.”
Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis called Miller a "franchise icon" and a "remarkable player."
"An All-Decade linebacker and Super Bowl MVP, Von made extraordinary contributions to our team while building a legacy as one of the greatest Broncos of all-time. Off the field, he was our Man of the Year nominee who impacted countless people through his foundation and tremendous personal generosity.
“Von is a special player, a special person and a Bronco for Life. Our entire organization has overwhelming gratitude for what he means to the Broncos and his special connection with our fans. We wish Von the very best and look forward to celebrating his eventual Ring of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions.”
John Elway, the Broncos president of football operations, said Miller was the first draft pick they made in 2011 to turn the team around.
"There was a lot of pressure on him as the No. 2 overall pick, and he exceeded all of those expectations during 11 great seasons as a Bronco. Von dedicated himself to become an elite, record-setting pass rusher and future Hall of Famer while helping us to one of the winningest periods in team history.
“Von was always at his best when we needed him the most. Our Super Bowl 50 win and playoff run that year would not have been possible without Von turning in one of the most dominant individual performances of all-time.
“Beyond being a great player, I’m proud of how Von grew as a pro on the field and out in the community. He will always be part of the Broncos family. I appreciate all Von did for us and thank him for the tremendous career he had with the Denver Broncos.”