The Denver Broncos rose to the top of the professional football world on the field last season. But right now, the organization’s off-field play with their most dominant defender has many wondering if the Denver front office is over its head dealing the most important negotiation of the off-season.
Without Pat Bowlen’s experience and well respected reputation for rewarding his star players’ superior performance, it’s been up to GM John Elway and former agent turned club negotiator Mike Sullivan trying unsuccessfully to close a long term deal with Von Miller.
The duo has earned a much deserved reputation for bullying players into team-friendly deals and it appears they’ve decided to adopt this same strategy with the Super Bowl MVP.
But is it really smart to treat Miller this way? Doesn’t Miller, the teams designated exclusive-rights franchise player, deserve more than the reported threats, phony deadlines and release of apparently false information about what the bargaining positions of Miller and his agent, Joby Brannion are.
Jack Mula, who spent a couple decades negotiating contracts for NFL players like Priest Holmes, Matt Millen and Rocket Ismail, and who earned three Super Bowl rings as the New England Patriots chief negotiator in the 2000s, thinks the performance by the Broncos organization has yet to match the super efforts shown by their players and coaches last season.
“It seems to me that John and Mike (Sullivan) probably wished they would have never gotten to this point in the negotiations, Mula said. “The optimum time to have signed Mr. Miller to a long term contract was before he reached the end of his existing one.
“Waiting and tagging the player opens up the real possibility that a failure to reach a long-term contract will have a damaging effect on the team, both on and off the field, due to Miller’s franchise status and a little known and rarely used player-friendly provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement which would reduce the level of compensation a club would be required to surrender to Denver if it signs Miller to a contract offer.
“Now it does require the player to sit out the season,” added Mula. “But it seems as if the hardline strategy adopted by Denver has pushed Miller to declare on his Instagram account that he will absolutely sit out the season rather than play under the franchise tag for 2016.”
There’s still time left to reach an agreement, July 15 to be exact. Can Elway pull out another fourth-quarter comeback this time and get Miller to agree to a long term deal?
Mula thinks he can but still wonders about the long term effects of last year’s missed opportunity:
“John showed us all plenty of magic on the field late to pull out wins as a starting QB, but you don’t get those chances when the work is off the field; it’s a different game with different players and different rules.”
And you get hurt if you don’t know them.