Why Von Miller's production justifies record-setting deal from Denver
Von Miller just agreed to the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history, and he earned every penny of the deal with his performance during Denver’s Super Bowl run to end the 2015 season.
The deal will keep him in Denver for another six seasons, and is worth $114.5 million if he plays out the duration of it. He receives something in the region of a $23 million signing bonus and a colossal $70 million in guaranteed money, according to Mike Klis. That guaranteed figure is $10 million more than Ndamukong Suh received in guaranteed dollars from Miami, and more guaranteed money than any NFL player has ever received outside of Andrew Luck.
The list of the top guaranteed-money earners in the league right now is comprised of a few recently-signed defensive interior players and quarterbacks, so Miller is the new market-setter when it comes to edge rushers.
Olivier Vernon blew some people’s minds when he signed a deal that had $52.5 million in guaranteed money, but Miller has eclipsed that mark by $17.5 million, and a very similar percentage of the total contract is guaranteed.
Those two contracts represent the shift in the market under the ever-increasing salary cap.
While Ndamukong Suh was never the best interior defender in the league, there is a good argument that Miller might be as good as it gets on the edge, and certainly capable of being that guy for an extended run of games, and he proved it on the biggest stage in the most crucial game of all at the end of last season.
Denver needed a win in Week 17 to be sure of top playoff seeding, so including that game, the Broncos were looking at essentially four playoff games to end their season. In those matchups, Miller averaged 7.5 total pressures per game. In the Super Bowl and the AFC Championship, he was arguably the single-most-important deciding factor in the outcome going in Denver’s favor, and in a very real sense, he can say that the Broncos don’t have another ring without him in a way most non-quarterbacks can’t in today’s league.
Miller has averaged 4.8 pressures during the regular season over the course of his career, and if anything, has only gotten better in the playoffs, where he has averaged 5.9 total pressures for his career so far. That is a ludicrous amount, and even eclipses J.J. Watt’s career-mark of 5.4 per game.
Miller at his best is nearly unstoppable as an edge rusher, and the only minor question marks are the occasional game where he doesn’t seem to match that average, and the fact that he has been in trouble in the past (suspended for half of the 2013 season).
The bottom line, though, is that Miller raised his value to the absolute maximum it could get to as he was hitting the negotiating period, much as Joe Flacco did when he parlayed the best five-game stretch of his career into a Super Bowl win and a $100 million deal of his own.
Von Miller pass-rushed his way to a Super Bowl win, and with it, the new benchmark contract for edge rushers in the NFL. Unlike Suh, who has never really hit the kind of play needed to justify his contract, Miller has attained that level of play regularly—and recently—so it’s tough to say that he has been overpaid in the same way.