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Why this could be Von Miller’s last game with the Rams

His arrival in California was a surprise, could it also be what drives him back to the Broncos?

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NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a minor miracle that Von Miller even got to the Los Angeles Rams to begin with. When the Denver Broncos signed him to a six-year, $114 million contract in 2016, months after winning the Super Bowl, it was assumed that Miller would be able to stay with the franchise his entire career. And it was less than a year ago that Miller himself posted on Instagram that he wanted to be with the Broncos “forever”.

“I want to be here forever, through the thick, the thin, the Super Bowl seasons, the losing seasons. I want to be here forever,” wrote Miller.

Even though Von Miller had not played football in a year and had only one year remaining on his deal, it was still expected that not only would he finish his career in Denver but that he would want to play for at least five or six more years. Miller posted in March that he hoped to stay with the Broncos forever, which I have no doubt was a genuine desire of his, and he told KUSA-TV in April that he wanted to play for another 5-7 years because of the birth of his son Valor this past August.

“I’ve got a son,” Miller said. “He’ll be here in about three or four weeks. I definitely want him to be able to see me play. That’s going to take about 5 to 7 years. That’s what I have on my heart, that’s what I have on my mind, another 5 to 7 years. Whatever God will give me, I’m going to take it.”

Miller returned to the field in Week 1 and played well for a linebacker who had missed about 20 months of football, registering 4.5 sacks and nine QB hits. However it would also be important that Miller was better than just “fine” if the 32-year-old was going to be able to command the best contract possible for him and his family in 2022. Would it be better to finish the year with the Broncos, a team that was 4-4 at the time of the trade but with no notable wins at the time, or to get a chance to star for a defense that would be playing in the postseason?

Being “Von Miller” is great and all but surely Von Miller has also seen how people have become skeptical of the value of 32-year-old J.J. Watt over the past two years. Watt chased a situation in Arizona that he hoped would lead to a deep playoff run when he knew it wasn’t happening with the Texans, then Miller followed suit when he “went to sleep 4-4 and woke up 7-1.”

The plan has worked to perfection so far. Now the last thing left to do is sack Joe Burrow three times and win Super Bowl LVI in about nine days.

Then I think it becomes a real question of whether or not Von Miller goes back to the Broncos in free agency.

Not only is Miller one win away from holding the Lombardi trophy, he also already has the comfort of another Super Bowl win in his back pocket. With three Super Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl MVP, a ring, and 115.5 career sacks, there’s nothing much left for Miller to do short of winning Defensive Player of the Year. Miller is even +4500 to win another Super Bowl MVP trophy, same odds as Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon at DraftKings Sportsbook.

I would never fault a player for seeking out the best contract terms and most money that he could get anyway, but maybe right now is an especially important time for Miller to not take a discount on his next deal.

Miller will be 33 in March and he also hopes to play long enough for his son to watch him play in the NFL, presumably also ensuring more security for his family in the long run as he does so. Miller was also involved in a “complex investment program” according to ESPN that may have lost him up to $700,000, which I only bring up as a reminder that even if a player has made over $100,000,000 in his career, that dollar figure takes a significant hit when given context.

Not only because of risky investments with career earnings but most of all due to taxes. According to SmartAsset.com, California has the highest state income tax in the country (13.3%) and that is on top of a 41.9% federal income tax. Colorado, for example, has the seventh-lowest individual income tax rate.

So when someone says “$100,000,000” contract—and that’s even if they’re lucky enough as Von Miller to even reach the end of the deal which almost never happens in the NFL but that’s how good he is—they could immediately be more accurate in saying a number closer to $50 or even $45 million. That’s before you pay your agent and of course a number of other requisite assistants to help you manage all of those assets you’re about to acquire and need services for.

I’m not saying that Miller should be hard up for cash, but when considering the cases of players like Miller and Odell Beckham Jr., another recent star acquisition and upcoming free agent, their “career earnings” may not come close to what they possess today and players also know that when they can’t play football anymore, that may be the end of the money machine.

Then the player has to keep up the lifestyle for another 50 years or so. Von Miller and OBJ’s next contract are extremely important milestones in their financial timelines, so the Los Angeles Rams have to come up with some convincing arguments to keep either from fleeing the state for rosier financial terms that go well beyond the scope of the salary cap.

The Rams are already in one of the worst financial positions for the 2022 cap, projected at this point to be well over it, but that will surely change based on a set of moves that have likely already been planned out by Les Snead and the front office. Parting with Andrew Whitworth, extending Matthew Stafford, restructuring Aaron Donald, these are all likely transactions that could technically make Miller affordable to the Rams.

But will California be affordable to Von Miller?

Miller referred to himself as a “Coloradoan” for life and though there were some strange rumors about Miller leaving Denver on bad terms, the potential behind-the-scenes conversations that are already happening around Aaron Rodgers and the Broncos could be the remedy for the future Hall of Fame pass rusher. The Broncos hired former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to be the head coach and former Green Bay tight ends coach Justin Outten as the offensive coordinator, though Hackett will call plays.

Meanwhile, the rumored next defensive coordinator in Denver is Ejiro Evero, who is currently serving as the secondary coach for... the LA Rams. Evero worked with Vic Fangio with the San Francisco 49ers, a few years before Fangio became Von Miller’s head coach with the Broncos.

Denver is projected to have $38 million in cap space right now, enough to absorb the contract of Rodgers and to re-sign Miller, if both parties are interested in a quick reunion.

In fact, the Broncos could not only offer pick nine to the Packers in exchange for Rodgers, as well as another first rounder in 2023, but they could potentially also throw in the second round pick that they acquired from the Rams for Von Miller. That would be two firsts, a late second (hopefully the last pick of the second round) for Rodgers and Denver would have enough money left in the bank for Miller, who knows what it’s like to live there already and who vowed to stick through the bad seasons and the “Super Bowl seasons” that the Broncos would be rumored to have if they do trade for Rodgers.

I don’t presume to know what Miller could be thinking after this game, I’m sure that his entire focus is on Super Bowl LVI and to play like he always does: Leaving nothing on the field and treating it like it could be his last. That’s going to give the Rams exactly what they need in the Super Bowl. It could also just happen to be his last with the Rams too.

Regardless of what happens, Von Miller has already been worth every draft pick and every penny.