A prime focus of the Bears offense on Sunday will be to account for and block Denver Broncos rush-linebacker Von Miller and interdict his pursuit of Jay Cutler and any other Bear with a football.
One focus of the Bears organization next offseason is expected to be turning Miller from pursuer to pursuee, with Miller the sort of elite pass rusher who reaches free agency only in the rarest of offseasons. And Miller, with five sacks and five tackles for a loss through nine games, said on Wednesday that he is interested in the opportunity to see what his open-market value is.
“You know obviously I want to get the opportunity to see what it brings when that chance comes,” Miller said via conference call on Wednesday.
The Bears will be among the NFL leaders in available salary cap space, and GM Ryan Pace last offseason demonstrated the priority the Bears place on 3-4 pass rushers when he made Pernell McPhee his first top-end signing with a five-year contract worth $38.7 million, of which $15.5 was guaranteed.
The Broncos will have the option of placing their franchise tag on Miller if a long-term deal is not reached. Legendary NFL executive and current NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt lists Miller No. 2 on his roster of must-re-sign players.
“Miller also makes everyone around him better, and not just up front,” Brandt wrote.
“Denver's defensive backs know they won't get beat deep too often, because Miller's going to make the quarterback get rid of the ball in a hurry.”
John Fox was in on drafting Miller, the second-overall selection of the 2011 draft, an immediate impact player that led Denver’s defense from 32nd in 2010 to 20th in Miller’s first year to second in 2012. He knows what Miller is and can do.
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“He’s a tremendous talent,” Fox said. “As a pass-rusher, he has great first-step explosion. He can convert speed to power. He’s a guy where, you better know where he is on the field at all times.
“I think he’s improved [since 2011]. They’re playing really good defense, the best that’s being played in the league right now, statistically speaking, and he’s a big part of that.”
For now Miller’s attention is on Cutler and being part of ending Denver’s two-game slide, so as far as free agency, "I don't think about it,” he said. “I only think about it when I get asked about it. I've just got to take it one game at a time, one play at a time, try to influence our guys top play better out there, you know try to play the kind of football that I've been playing and that'll be enough to get it done."