“Where will Von Miller sign in 2022?” was the furthest thing from the minds of most LA Rams fans at the beginning of last season. Now after 12 games together, the likelihood of Miller signing with the Rams has become one of the first questions to ponder when considering what would be a “successful” offseason for the reigning Super Bowl champs.
After posting eight sacks in 2019—his lowest total ever for a “full” season—and missing all of 2020, Von Miller is back atop the world and set to hit free agency for the first time in his career. Miller signed a four-year rookie deal in 2011, the first wave of players to enter the league following the CBA agreement that put an end to mega-contracts for draft picks, then signed a six-year deal with the Denver Broncos after they placed the franchise tag on him in 2016.
Now on the verge of turning 33, Miller is coming off of a campaign with 9.5 sacks in 15 games, including five with the Rams. And another four sacks and six QB hits in four postseason games for Los Angeles, helping them get past the Cardinals, Bucs, 49ers, and Bengal en route to a championship.
It wouldn’t be right to say that Miller “came cheap” at the cost of a second and third round pick for a half-season/playoffs rental, but his value today has gone beyond most people’s expectations three months ago at the time of the deal. Will the Rams be able to afford him on his next contract? Is Miller interested in re-signing with Los Angeles? And what teams could come from left field to offer him a third potential destination for what could be his final NFL contract?
Re-sign with the Los Angeles Rams
Trading for Miller and signing Odell Beckham, Jr. were considered “all-in moves” to win a championship at the cost of the future, but Les Snead said at the time that the Rams had a “long-term vision” with these acquisitions.
“We’re actually looking at this from a standpoint of how soon can he help us, can he help us if we’re fortunate enough to continue going and make the 2021 tournament, how can he help us there,” Snead said. “And then there’s a long-term vision for Von as well.”
At the very least, if Von Miller signs with another team, the Rams should at least recoup a draft pick in the form of a 2023 compensatory selection because Miller reached the end of his deal. (Teams don’t get comp picks if they release a player from his contract.) Given how he played, that might even result in a third round comp pick, meaning that Snead sort of only traded one second round pick to get Von.
Von Miller wants a back-to-back championship ring.— LA Rams Nation (@RamsNationCP) February 17, 2022
What do you think, Rams Nation? pic.twitter.com/59sA6iLHYK
But even better might be re-signing Miller if they can afford it.
As Steven Ridings wrote on Turf Show Times recently, Snead can restructure a number of contracts on the team in order to open up cap space for a player like Von Miller or OBJ.
When Miller signed his six-year deal in 2016, also coming off of a Super Bowl championship at that time, it made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL at $19 million per season. Those are practically “joke numbers” for elite edge rushers now, but that’s also not the tier that Von Miller currently sits in. He’s not T.J. Watt, who was just extended at $28 million per year with the Steelers.
The Rams named Von Miller the Postseason Performer of the Year.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) February 26, 2022
In 4 games, Von had 4 sacks, 6 QB hits, 6 TFLs, 14 tackles 1 forced fumble & 1 fumble recovery.
He was vintage playoff Von.
Instead, consider the $13.6 million APY of Matt Judon with the New England Patriots in 2021, the $13 million for Yannick Ngakoue with the Las Vegas Raiders, or maybe at most the $17 million for Shaq Barrett with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Miller could consider returning to the Rams on something like a three-year, $45 million contract with the first two years guaranteed for $34 million. If Aaron Donald is returning, it could give L.A. a shot at having the NFL’s best defense in 2022 and of course they will be considered one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl again. Miller has insinuated that he’d like to “run it back” with the Rams and he’s always been a “Hollywood guy” who seems to be waiting to transition to film and movies when his playing days are over.
A couple of greats roamin' the halls. @AaronDonald97 x @VonMiller pic.twitter.com/kGrA7pc524— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 18, 2022
If championships and fame are of interest to Miller, then the Rams make more sense than most teams, if not all of them.
Return to the Denver Broncos
Von Miller has never made it a secret that he considers himself a Coloradoan for life and that his stay with the Rams is only temporary as compared to how connected he feels to the Broncos. “I’m just working in LA right now,” said Miller just before the Super Bowl.
“I didn’t want to leave; if it was up to me I’d still be in Denver,” Miller said at Super Bowl LVI media day Monday, via The Denver Post. “This wasn’t my choice. I always wanted to be a Denver Bronco forever. I’ll always be a Denver Bronco forever. I’m just here working in L.A. right now.”
The Broncos cap situation is much better than LA’s—roughly $38 million in space before things get started—and by agreeing to a trade, Von Miller was essentially just making sure that Denver got some extra draft compensation for 2022 in the form of two day two picks.
But before Miller considers a return to the Broncos, he probably wants to know who the quarterback is going to be. He’d be taking a huge risk of not making the playoffs if he decides to go back to a team that will have Drew Lock or Jimmy Garoppolo as its starting quarterback, especially as compared to Matthew Stafford and working in a division that also employs Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.
If the Broncos don’t guarantee Von Miller a real QB in 2022, is he really willing to be a part of a two or three-year plan again? If Miller really intends to retire as a member of the Broncos, and not on a one-day contract, then he could even consider signing a one-year deal in 2022 for the most money possible and then checking back in with Denver in 2023.
We know that the Denver Broncos are number one in Von Miller’s heart. They need to give him more reason to choose them with his head though. That’s yet to be seen.
Surprise Teams Enter the Chat: Los Angeles Chargers
What if Von Miller:
- Didn’t have to move out of L.A. and could continue playing at SoFi Stadium
- Went back to the AFC West, but not with the Broncos
- Joined a team with an up-and-coming star quarterback
- Wanted to get as much money possible
- Reunited with his linebackers coach from Denver
The Chargers play in the same stadium as the Rams, but have yet to establish themselves in this city like the Rams have—to whatever degree that statement is true.
Brandon Staley was only the Broncos linebackers coach for one year, in 2019, but that was certainly enough for him to have at least met Von Miller, right? The Chargers have over $50 million in cap space before free agency even begins, third-most in the league. It would team him up with Joey Bosa, Derwin James, making it sort of like “Rams lite” from a superstar trio perspective.
Chatting with new #Chargers HC Brandon Staley & how he's been able to connect with his players including guys like Ramsey, AD, Mack, Von Miller, & Bradley Chubb #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/aiODBwI09Z— ️at McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 26, 2021
The L.A. Chargers missed the playoffs last year but are no joke when it comes to contending for a Super Bowl next season. Adding Miller not only takes some focus away from Bosa and Uchenna Nwosu and Jerry Tillery, but also gives a mentor to disappointing first round linebacker Kenneth Murray. At the moment, former Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr is about to be a free agent and may not re-sign with the Chargers, but he’s at least able to give insight into the team to Miller and I’m sure there are plenty of reasons he’d be interested in trying to help a third team win a Super Bowl.
The other day I was wondering, “What else could Tom Brady do at this point?”
Well, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it? He could be the second player in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with three different teams. (Matt Millen is the only one to ever do it.) Add Von Miller to the list of players who can now try to accomplish that, if he wants to. There’d be far worse teams to attempt it with than the 2022 Chargers.
Other teams that must be on the table are the Bengals (cap space, contending in 2022), Seahawks (cap space, argue contention if Russell Wilson stays), Commanders (cap space, but like Broncos, need a QB), and Bears (cap space, potentially a wide open NFC North).
None should make as much sense as the Chargers, but that’s only if the Rams and Broncos don’t beat their offers.