The Denver Broncos and Von Miller have agreed to the largest contract for a defensive player in league history.
Miller’s agency, Vanguard Sports, announced the deal Friday, and the reigning Super Bowl MVP posted a Twitter photo of himself in a Broncos jersey with the caption “FOR LIFE.”
Miller has agreed to a six-year, $114.5 million contract, sources told ESPN, and will be under contract with the Broncos through the 2021 season. The deal, which ended the sometimes testy negotiations of the past five months, got done when the Broncos significantly pumped up the guaranteed money from an offer Miller and his representatives turned down in June.
Miller gets a $23 million signing bonus and $42 million guaranteed at signing, $61 million guaranteed after the first year and $70 million guaranteed after the second year of the deal, the sources said. Those totals pushed Miller past the guaranteed money Fletcher Cox received in his contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in recent weeks. Cox got more than $36 million at signing, $55 million in the first nine months and $63 million guaranteed by the deal’s third year.
Miller’s contract includes the largest total and the most in guaranteed money for a defensive player. It also pushed Miller into the neighborhood of quarterback contracts in terms of guaranteed money, putting him behind only Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Last week, Luck signed a $140 million deal that will pay him $87 million guaranteed.
Miller was designated the team’s franchise player in February, which came with a one-year guaranteed tender of more than $14 million for the 2016 season. But the two sides tried, with some starts and stops, to negotiate a long-term deal after the scouting combine in February.
The Broncos and Miller faced a Friday deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals before the 2016 season. If Miller had not agreed to a contract, he would have had to decide whether to play under the rules and salary of the franchise player tender or consider sitting out the 2016 season.
In recent weeks negotiations appeared to be stalling, as sources said Miller and his representatives had requested a trade if the Broncos didn’t increase their offer. The Broncos had no intention of trading Miller, who is a cornerstone player in the team’s defense.
The Broncos and Miller’s agent, Joby Branion, had largely agreed to the contract’s six-year length and the total amount before summer. But the Broncos initially offered less guaranteed money overall and sought to largely spread those guarantees over the first three years of the deal.
The Broncos’ offer in June included $39.8 million guaranteed in the first two years — $38.5 million guaranteed money at signing with $1.3 million in workout bonuses. But with a finger pointed at the market, Miller and his representatives flagged Cox’s six-year, $102.6 million deal with the Eagles.
In that deal, Cox received $36.299 million in guaranteed money at signing and an additional $19.25 million in salary guarantees in March 2017, for $55.549 million in guarantees within nine months of signing.
Olivier Vernon’s contract with the New York Giants, signed in March, also had an impact on the negotiations. Vernon signed a five-year, $85 million deal with $52.5 million guaranteed. Vernon received $40.5 million of that guaranteed money at signing and will receive another $12 million by the third day of the league year in 2018.
Despite Miller’s saying he expected negotiations to be “peaceful” and that he “trusted” John Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations/general manager, things had gotten emotional in recent weeks.
The team was frustrated with the inability to get a deal done before the end of the offseason program in mid-June — Miller skipped all of the team’s conditioning and on-field work — while Miller told many close to him he was blindsided when some of the specifics of the contract were made public in June.
Miller made the trip to the White House with his Super Bowl 50 teammates and attended the ring ceremony at which the players received their Super Bowl jewelry. But he made no secret of his anger, even cropping Elway out of a picture taken at the White House and posting it on social media.
Miller later posted on social media there was “no chance” he would play the 2016 season under the franchise tag.
It all created some unease around the Broncos about whether the team would increase the guaranteed money in the contract and move that money around so Miller would receive it sooner in the deal.
Throughout the negotiations, Elway said Miller “knows how the Broncos feel about him, he knows how I feel about him.” Elway has called Miller a rare player that the team wanted to keep on the roster.
Miller, the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2011, has 60 sacks in five seasons and played a key role on last season’s league-leading defense. He reached what Broncos coach Gary Kubiak called a “dominant level” of play in a postseason run that included five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in the team’s three postseason games.
His sack and forced fumble on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50 created the Broncos’ first touchdown, as Denver’s Malik Jackson recovered the fumble in the Panthers’ end zone.
Miller’s ascension to Super Bowl MVP came after a troubled 2013 season during which he was suspended six games under the league’s substance abuse policy. Miller also tore his right ACL in the second-to-last regular-season game of 2013.