What’s an arm and a leg cost? No need to Google it—we can just look at Von Miller’s contract.
The Broncos and Miller ended their month-long cat-and-mouse game (complete with pouting, empty threats and passive aggressive Instagram cropping) by agreeing to a six-year, $114.5 million contract on Friday. It’s the richest deal ever signed by a defensive player, but not by a significant margin. Ndamukong Suh agreed to an almost identical six-year, $114 million pact with Miami last offseason but Miller’s deal came with more guarantees ($70 million compared to $60 million for Suh).
The guaranteed money, of course, is what held up negotiations for so long. The two sides settled on the deal’s basic framework a month earlier but Denver was only willing to guarantee the first two years of Miller’s contract (a $39.8 million value), which caused talks to stall. Miller gave Denver the silent treatment after contract terms leaked but once the Broncos bumped up their offer, all was forgiven. Miller announced the news on Twitter with a two-word message: “For life.” The Broncos have been through some tough times with Miller—he was suspended six games for failing a drug test in 2013—but a long-term deal was always the most likely outcome.
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Miller’s inevitable contract extension was quickly overshadowed by the Jets’ out-of-nowhere deal with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. The offseason program came and went without even the slightest sign of Wilkerson. Because he refused to sign his franchise tender, Wilkerson could have shown up days before Week 1 and still earned his entire $15.7 million salary. A training camp holdout seemed like a near certainty as the sides engaged in a lengthy cold war. In the end, Wilkerson cashed in with a deal equal to the head-turning amount Olivier Vernon received from the Giants this past offseason. Wilkerson has easily been the more productive of the two, logging 12 sacks last season compared to only 7.5 for Vernon.
Wilkerson’s five-year, $85 million deal includes $37 million guaranteed. It also helps the Jets in their pursuit of Ryan Fitzpatrick, assuming the two sides are still open to a reunion. If Wilkerson had played under the $15.7 million franchise tag, it would have been almost impossible for the Jets to fit Fitzpatrick under the salary cap, particularly given his excessive contract demands. Depending on how the deal is structured, Wilkerson’s contract could provide the Jets with enough cap space to meet Fitzpatrick’s quota.
Fitzpatrick’s return to the Meadowlands is far from a guarantee. Brandon Marshall said Fitzpatrick stopped answering his text messages while NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the standoff between the Jets and Fitzpatrick could last well into training camp.
Fitzpatrick feels he’s worth at least $16 million annually while the Jets are offering him something in the $7-9 million range. It could be nothing but Fitzpatrick wasn’t even mentioned in a recent article about Geno Smith on the team’s website. Smith was terrible in his two years as a starter but that was before Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall teamed up to form one of the league’s most explosive receiving duos. Fitzpatrick’s career-best numbers last year suggest that Decker and Marshall had a lot to do with his success. In fact, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said Fitzpatrick should have thrown at least 30 interceptions last year after going through his game film. “He was a little bit lucky,” Jaws admitted.
Justin Tucker agreed to a four-year, $16.8 million deal with Baltimore just before Friday’s franchise tag deadline while Cordy Glenn reached an extension with Buffalo months ago. That leaves four franchise players without long-term deals. That list includes Kirk Cousins, Alshon Jeffery, Eric Berry and Trumaine Johnson.
A new deal for Jeffery was always a long shot. Coming off an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, the Bears want Jeffery to prove he can stay healthy before signing him to a long-term contract. Maybe they’re not convinced of his talent either. According to ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson, “Chicago’s approach in negotiations suggests they view Jeffery more as a "1A" or elite No. 2 wideout.” Jeffery certainly looked elite last season. He finished eighth in the league in yards per game ahead of big names like A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson. Jeffery is reportedly seeking a deal that would pay him at least $12 million annually while the Bears have only offered $10-11 million.
By not signing a deal before the deadline, Cousins will become the first quarterback to play under the franchise tag since Drew Brees in 2005. That was Brees’ last year in San Diego before joining the Saints. The Redskins had enough confidence in Cousins to slap him with the $19.953 million franchise tag but not enough to fulfill his lofty contract demands. Cousins is targeting a deal worth $44 million over the first two seasons but the Redskins were only willing to go up to $16 million annually with $24 million guaranteed.
Cousins enjoyed a breakout year in 2015 with 29 touchdowns, a monster 69.8 completion percentage and an equally stellar 101.6 quarterback rating. The Redskins’ offense is well stocked with pass-catchers including deep threat DeSean Jackson and last year’s go-to target, ascending tight end Jordan Reed. First-round pick Josh Doctson also figures to play a big role out of the gate. If Cousins uses those weapons to his advantage, he could be rewarded handsomely next offseason.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry also watched Friday’s deadline pass without a new deal. Berry was hoping for a contract similar to the five-year, $51.25 million extension signed by Vikings safety Harrison Smith earlier this offseason. GM John Dorsey is optimistic the sides will meet again to discuss a deal after this season.
Berry’s 2015 campaign was about perseverance. After receiving chemo therapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma during the offseason, Berry went out and had his best season, earning first-team All-Pro honors while being awarded Comeback Player of the Year. The 27-year-old will be paid $10.8 million under the franchise tag, assuming he gets around to signing it. There’s still a chance he could hold out, though the Chiefs are expecting him at training camp later this month.
Quick Hits: Former Lions running back Jahvid Best will represent St. Lucia in the 100 meters at the Olympics next month. Meanwhile Patriots safety and special teams contributor Nate Ebner is going to Rio as a member of the United States’ rugby team … Justin Durant agreed to a one-year deal with Dallas on Monday. The veteran linebacker previously played for the Cowboys from 2013-14 before spending last year with Atlanta … Aqib Talib (leg) has resumed running and should be good to go for the start of Broncos training camp. Talib sat out OTAs while recovering from a bullet wound he suffered in a nightclub shooting last month … The big news Monday was that Arian Foster signed a one-year deal with Miami. While Jay Ajayi is still penciled in as the starter, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he and Foster split carries right down the middle … Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams confirmed that Nelson Agholor will not face charges after being accused of sexual assault at a strip club back in June. He’s hoping to carve out a role as the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver after a disappointing rookie year … Karlos Williams’ offseason went from bad to worse when he received a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Bills coach Rex Ryan had Williams sit out minicamp last month after showing up 20 pounds overweight. With Williams suspended, the Bills have already made an offer to free agent Reggie Bush … In other suspension news, Niners linebacker Aaron Lynch was also banned four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Lynch tied for the team lead in sacks last year and is easily the Niners’ best pass rusher … Tom Brady is no longer appealing his four-game suspension but the NFL Players Association will push on. They’re planning to bring the case to the Supreme Court. If they win (doubtful) the league would reimburse Brady for the four game checks he missed. That total comes out to $235,941 … David Amerson earned a big raise last week when the Raiders handed him a four-year, $38 million contract extension. He’ll start opposite Sean Smith at corner this year … The Rams expect Nick Foles to attend training camp later this month. Foles skipped OTAs, which head coach Jeff Fisher described as “a mutual thing.” He’s third on the Rams’ depth chart behind starter Jared Goff and rookie Case Keenum … Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times Union is expecting a 55/45 split in the Jaguars’ backfield this season. In that scenario, Chris Ivory would get 55 percent of the carries with T.J. Yeldon handling the rest. The team is also considering a hot-hand approach with the better first-half performer getting more touches in the second half … Eagles coach Doug Pederson acknowledged that Carson Wentz is likely to be a healthy scratch for most of his rookie season. The No. 2 overall pick is third on the Eagles’ depth chart behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel … No players were selected in last week’s Supplemental Draft though two players have signed on as free agents. Calgary receiver Rashaun Simonise caught on with Cincinnati while Purdue defensive tackle Ra’Zahn Howard joined the Texans … Stedman Bailey has returned to his alma mater at West Virginia where he’ll serve as an assistant coach while finishing up his degree. The Rams wideout was shot in the head twice last November and is still recovering … Kent Babb of the Washington Post wrote an in-depth profile on Johnny Manziel’s fall from grace. It’s long but worth the read … Charles Tillman announced his retirement Monday, but not before posting this epic YouTube video.