Did the Broncos make a mistake not re-signing Von Miller in 2022?

Denver Broncos, Von Miller - Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos, Von Miller - Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Future Hall of Famer and former Denver Broncos Super Bowl MVP Von Miller was outstanding in his 2022 debut for the Buffalo Bills, racking up two sacks, three tackles for loss, and two QB hits. Everyone in Broncos Country has been happy for Miller watching his success since he was traded away by the Broncos at last year’s deadline.

He was a huge reason why the Los Angeles Rams won a Super Bowl, and he was a huge reason why the Rams got absolutely destroyed in the 2022 season opener. Simply put, Miller — at the age of 33 — has shown zero signs of slowing down. He’s a generational type of athlete who knows how to take care of his body and stay in peak condition year-round. Even battling through some injuries in recent years, Miller’s explosiveness has gone nowhere. His ability to get to the quarterback is still among the best in the NFL.

All of that begs an important question — why did the Denver Broncos not prioritize bringing Miller back in the 2022 offseason? This is a question that drew a ton of interesting responses on my Twitter account during the Bills-Rams game on Thursday night. I typically don’t advocate playing the “hindsight” game but the fact is, this isn’t really an issue of hindsight. Many Denver Broncos fans saw Miller as the best option for the team in the 2022 offseason to fill the Broncos’ biggest roster need beyond quarterback, which was the edge rusher position.

Did the Broncos make a huge mistake letting Von Miller sign elsewhere in 2022?

There were a variety of factors that led a wide variety of people to believe that Miller re-signing in Denver in 2022 would be the right move. Let’s look at a few quickly.

  • EDGE was the team’s top need beyond QB
  • Miller publicly campaigned to return to Denver
  • The Broncos clearly had a budget for a big-money move at EDGE
  • The team finally acquired a QB after Miller endured the post-Manning years
  • Miller is unanimously beloved by the fan base
  • The Broncos entered a championship window when they traded for Russell Wilson

This is not a post meant to bag on George Paton, by any means. I will continue to be a huge fan of all George Paton has done for the franchise to this point and I am also excited to see what Randy Gregory can do in orange and blue. With that being said, the pressure is undoubtedly on Gregory to go out and play the best he’s ever played as an NFL player with the Broncos given what we’ve seen from Miller since the Broncos traded him.

Let’s get one thing straight — the Broncos were not wrong to trade Von Miller last year. That trade landed them two premium draft picks and Miller was a pending free agent. It was a great trade for Miller because it allowed him to chase another ring, which he won. It was a great trade for the team. Because it was such a win-win of a trade, Miller was apparently open to coming back to Denver to finish out his career as a Bronco, but the Broncos didn’t reciprocate.

In fact, according to George Paton, Randy Gregory was always a top priority. There was no indication that the Broncos made Miller an offer or lost a “bidding war” for his services. In the end, it apparently came down to the Rams or Bills for Miller, two teams that actually were bidding for his services. And the Bills won out on a six-year deal worth $120 million, which is a grandeur way to say three years, just over $52 million (at least in terms of real, guaranteed money).

Practically speaking, the Broncos can get out of Randy Gregory’s deal after three years, $42 million, but his contract was five years, $70 million with $28 million guaranteed. On the surface, Miller’s deal looks way too rich for the Broncos but was it really?

The fact of the matter is, the Broncos and Miller could have made something work if both sides were really motivated to get a deal done. The Broncos weren’t in on Chandler Jones, either, and he got just $34 million guaranteed from the Raiders.

The reality is, the Broncos simply felt it was time to move on from Von Miller, as much as a reunion would have appealed to the fan base. Watching Miller have success will now come with a slightly bitter sting, not because we’re unhappy for Von but because the Broncos could have had him back.

Say all you want about Miller’s age, but again — this is a team in a championship window. Are you taking your chances over the next three or four years with Miller or the alternatives that were available in 2022?

Again, this isn’t about being low on Randy Gregory, it’s about being high on Von Miller and the team having a chance to bring him back. They prioritized Gregory, and hopefully, he goes out there and has the first multi-sack season of his NFL career. Hopefully he looks the best he ever has as an NFL player. The reality up to this point is, Gregory missed most of the offseason with a shoulder procedure.

He’s expected to play in the season opener against the Seahawks and he’s been progressing fine in recent months, but staying on the field has always been the issue with Gregory, which is partly why the Broncos were able to get him for $28 million guaranteed on a five-year deal worth $70 million total.

There’s no reason to be upset over the Broncos’ pass rush unit, or panic over the fact that they don’t have Von Miller. But what we saw from Miller on Thursday night against the Bills is simply more evidence that he’s still got it, and “it’s” not going anywhere anytime soon. Miller could wind up being the final piece to Buffalo’s puzzle in 2022, and if he helps get them a Super Bowl win, it will be impossible to ignore the events that transpired during the 2022 NFL free agent signing period.

It felt like the stars had undoubtedly aligned for Miller’s return in 2022, but the Broncos obviously didn’t see it that way. Time will tell if they made the right call.