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2022 NFL Free Agency: Von Miller contract analysis

Numbers are coming in for the big deal

The Buffalo Bills have announced the addition of pass rusher Von Miller, but the contract overview has left many scratching their heads. A six-year deal for a 33-year-old player is not usually the norm, after all. Let’s dive into the details as well as the rationalization of some of the decisions.

Six years, explained

First, let’s say it’s unlikely Miller sees the end of this contract. Pass rushers can be effective well into their 30s but he’ll either retire or be released before the end of this. The most likely scenario for the length of the deal is Buffalo’s cap situation.

I think it’s likely there is a fully guaranteed roster bonus a year from now similar to what they did on Josh Allen’s contract. Allen is receiving a check for $42 million this weekend as part of his contract, but the cap hit is spread out over the remaining five years of his deal as a new “signing bonus.” Miller’s number won’t be that big, but the concept is the same.

Eventually, if Miller leaves on his own or by the Bills’ choice, the money that was spread out over the remaining years of the deal will come due.

Perspective

For now, let’s look at Chandler Jones and the Las Vegas Raiders. He signed a three-year, $52.5 million contract with $34 million guaranteed. We don’t know how much is fully guaranteed vs rolling guaranteed.

Miller’s guaranteed money will all be in the first two or three years, too. It has a payout of $53 million in the first three years according to Aaron Wilson, with $32 million fully guaranteed. Seems incredibly similar to Jones’s deal at a half-million more.

Both contracts are two-year, $33ish million with a third year team option at $20ish million. That’s the perspective through which you need to view the contract.

Numbers

Two years, $32 million = $16 million per season

Three years, $53 million = $17.666 million per season

Six years, $120 million = $20 million per season

Do you see how the average annual goes up the further into the contract you go? It makes it more likely the Bills cut bait after a few seasons and also that they inflated the back-end compensation numbers to make the contract look bigger than it actually was. Agents love that.

Miller is, after all, the only defensive player to ever sign two $100 million contracts. To think that didn’t matter to him is probably naïve.


UPDATE: 3/19

Here are the full contract numbers, via Pro Football Talk. Everything we posited above appears to be the case in the full numbers.

Miller gets an $18.525 million signing bonus as part of a massive amount of guaranteed money, including full guarantees into the third year. In all, $45 million is fully guaranteed. That’s more than Jones and goes into the third season. He will be on the Bills for at least those three seasons, barring injury or retirement.

The structure of the contract, including the big roster bonus a year from now, is specifically designed to spread out the cap hit into 2025 and beyond. Signing bonuses are pro-rated over five years, so this year’s signing bonus will be spread out over the first five years and next year’s will be spread out over the last five of the deal. That’s why it’s a six-year contract, not because they think he’s going to play until age 40.

After the roster bonus-heavy first two years for contract purposes, his base salaries hop up to where you’d expect; $17.145 million for 2024 and 2025, $19.645 million in 2026, and a laughable $29.645 million for 2027. That last number was just to get the overall contract to $20 million per season and over the $100 million mark.

Each year has $255,000 in per-game roster bonuses available and a $100,000 workout bonus.

Here are the yearly breakdowns.

2022
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000 ($225,000 LTBE)
Base salary: $1.12 million (fully guaranteed)

Cap number: $5.15 million

2023
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
Roster bonus: $13.345 million (fully guaranteed)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $1.3 million (fully guaranteed)

Cap number: $18.705 million

2024
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $17.145 million ($10.71 million fully guaranteed)

Cap number: $21.205 million

2025
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $17.145 million

Cap number: $21.205 million
Dead cap: $7.41 million
Cap savings if cut: $13.795 million

2026
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $19.645 million

Cap number: $23.705 million
Dead cap: $3.705 million
Cap savings if cut: $20 million

2027
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $29.645 million

Cap number: $30 million
Dead cap: $0
Cap savings if cut: $30 million


2023 “Option Bonus” Numbers

I also wanted to give you what the yearly breakdowns will look like if his 2023 roster bonus is converted into a signing bonus, as I’d expect.

2022
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000 ($225,000 LTBE)
Base salary: $1.12 million (fully guaranteed)

Cap number: $5.15 million

2023
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
New signing bonus: $2.669 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $1.3 million (fully guaranteed)

Cap number: $8.029 million

2024
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
New signing bonus: $2.669 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $17.145 million ($10.71 million fully guaranteed)

Cap number: $23.874 million

2025
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
New signing bonus: $2.669 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $17.145 million

Cap number: $23.874 million
Dead cap: $15.417 million
Cap savings if cut: $8.457 million

2026
Pro-rated signing bonus: $3.705 million
New signing bonus: $2.669 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $19.645 million

Cap number: $26.374 million
Dead cap: $9.043 million
Cap savings if cut: $17.331 million

2027
New signing bonus: $2.669 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Per-game roster bonus: $15,000 per game up to $255,000
Base salary: $29.645 million

Cap number: $32.669 million
Dead cap: $2.669 million
Cap savings if cut: $30 million