In the quiet days leading up to the NFL's deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal, a sometimes contentious battle between Miller and the Broncos' front office went dark as both sides dug in to craft the deal that would pay Miller more in guaranteed money than team president John Elway made over a 16-year career.
NFL Media's Rand Getlin first reported Miller agreeing to a six-year contract with the Broncos on Friday, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport added the deal is worth $114.5 million and it includes $70 million in guarantees by March 2018, surpassing the $59.955 million guaranteed that Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh received in March 2015. Rapoport also reported $42 million of the deal is fully guaranteed, including a $23 million signing bonus, according to a source who has seen the deal.
"This is something I really wanted -- to stay with the Denver Broncos," Miller said in a statement released by the team. "I am so appreciative and grateful for this opportunity."
Miller's guarantees also beats out the deals signed by Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox ($63 million in guarantees), Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus ($60 million in guarantees) and Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon ($52 million in guarantees), who round out the top five richest defensive player contracts.
"Going forward, we expect great things from Von not only on the field but with the responsibility he has as a leader on the team," Elway said.
So what does this mean?
For the Broncos, they have their 27-year-old pass rusher locked up for the foreseeable future. The team realistically gives themselves a chance to defend their Super Bowl title despite an uncertain platoon of quarterbacks vying for the starting role. The defense was always going to be the strength of this team, and under coordinator Wade Phillips, they made a historic march to the Super Bowl, rendering the explosive Panthers powerless in San Francisco on the game's biggest stage.
For the rest of the league, the salary floor has risen yet again. Deals signed this offseason have already left contracts signed by Kansas City's Justin Houston (six years, $101 million, $16.83 million average per year, $52.5 million in guarantees) and Houston's J.J. Watt (six years, $100 million, $16.667 million average per season, $51.88 million in guarantees) in the dust -- something which likely won't stand for long assuming the league's best pass rushers want to continue to be paid as such.
Though it feels somewhat surprising that the pair agreed to a deal after such a tedious summer, these sort of negotiations should be expected. Miller's very public negotiation with the Broncos was emblematic of the modern contract extension in the NFL. From reportedly cutting Elway's picture out of an Instagram post to loudly declaring he would sit out rather than play under the tag, it has become a familiar song and dance for some of the league's best players.
Miller, though, was one of the few who ended up earning the mega deal.
On a day when many of the NFL's best tagged players, including Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson didn't sign long-term contracts, Miller can celebrate the one bit of unique bargaining power that never seems to go away: leverage.