Von Miller is too good to be a free agent. That’s why the Denver Broncos placed their exclusive franchise tag tender on him Tuesday. NFL Media’s Albert Breer first reported the move.
The sides covered ground, but require additional negotiation. As a result, the Broncos applied the exclusive franchise tag to outside linebacker Von Miller on Tuesday. The tool provides time for the parties to continue discussing a long-term deal as the Broncos move on multiple fronts.
They continue to talk with the agents for defensive end Malik Jackson and quarterback Brock Osweiler, trying to secure contracts before other teams can begin negotiating with them on March 7. Even as an ESPN report surfaced that Peyton Manning wants to continue playing in 2016, the Broncos want Osweiler back. Manning remains deliberate in his decision. Absent retirement he could elect to let the Broncos know to proceed without him. Manning’s $19 million salary guarantees on March 9, meaning there will be resolution by then.
Two quarterbacks began shaping the market Tuesday. The WashingtonRedskins placed the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins, guaranteeing him $19.95 million for the 2016 season. The Philadelphia Eagles followed by signing free-agent Sam Bradford to a two-year, $36 million deal with $26 million guaranteed, according to mulitple reports. Osweiler offers little comparison to either quarterback, leaving the Broncos seeing no direct impact on their talks. However, Osweiler’s camp could use the deals as a reason to test the market.
Denver has offered slightly less than $11 million annually to Jackson, who is believed to be seeking closer to $14 million per season. The Broncos are attempting to put several pieces together, while also looking to restructure contracts of defensive end DeMarcus Ware and offensive tackle Ryan Clady.
Von Miller becomes the first player since New Orleans’ Drew Brees in 2012 to receive the exclusive tag designation. It prevents teams from signing Von Miller to an offer sheet, making it clear he’s not going anywhere this season. He would be guaranteed $14 million this season, if a deal isn’t struck by July 15. A roster move is not required until he signs the tender. Last season, receiver Broncos Demaryius Thomas declined to sign, sitting out the Broncos’ offseason workouts before a contract was finalized at the deadline.
“We’ve had productive talks with Von’s representation, and we’ll continue those discussions with the goal of making sure Von remains a Bronco well into the future,” Broncos general manager John Elway said.
Both sides are motivated to make it happen. Von Miller said Monday night on NFL Network that he wants to be a Bronco for life.
“I want to be with Derek Wolfe, Chris Harris, all those guys, DT (Demaryius Thomas),” Von Miller said. “I want to be with those guys my whole career, and whatever it takes to get it done I am down for.”
The numbers on any deal will be staggering. Von Miller placed himself in position to become one of the league’s highest-paid defenders. Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ranks as the richest with $59.5 million guaranteed on a six-year, $114.375 million contract. Von Miller can argue for more than Suh based on his career and playoff dominance, but the situations are different. Suh signed as a free agent with no strings attached. Von Miller lacks that leverage. However, the Broncos could move to guarantee him more than Suh — in excess of $60-million range over the first three years — while keeping his average annual salary below $20 million. As a franchise-tag player last July, Kansas City’s Justin Houston received $52.5-million guaranteed.