The simple, yet complicated, question regarding Von Miller's negotiations with the Denver Broncos comes down to this: Is Miller better off gambling by sitting out a season or taking the one-year, $14.1 million franchise-tag offer if he and the Broncos can't work out a long-term deal by July 15?
Based on the history of players who have either held out or missed a significant portion of the previous season, Miller would be better off sitting than playing.
The value of great players does not decrease when they miss time. If anything, their value increases. There are 13 strong examples of that, starting with the biggest of all holdouts by then-Washington defensive tackle Sean Gilbert in 1997.
At the time, Washington had declared Gilbert its franchise player for one year at $3.5 million and offered him a four-year, $13 million deal. Gilbert balked at both offers and sat out the entire 1997 season.
Gilbert was warned by management, teammates, fans and even the media that his value would decline after missing a season. It did just the opposite. By the 1998 offseason, the bidding for Gilbert was robust with the likes of then-Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson making a pitch for him when Washington put him up for trade.
Eventually, Carolina topped all offers. Not only did the Panthers give Washington two first-round picks to get Gilbert, they gave him a seven-year, $46.5 million deal with more guaranteed money than his entire four-year offer from Washington had been worth the year before. Gilbert went on to play five of the seven years with Carolina.
Here are some other examples both from the college and pro ranks where injury- and/or holdout-related value stayed the same or increased after a player missed time:
Darrelle Revis - In the 2013 offseason, cornerback Darrelle Revis was coming off a torn ACL and other injuries that forced him to miss 14 games the previous year. He wanted a contract extension at the time, but the New York Jets weren't interested. The Jets wanted to trade Revis even though any team acquiring him would have to give up draft picks and give him a new contract. That team would also have to hope he returned to full health.
The Jets had several bidders, and Tampa Bay eventually gave them a first- and fourth-round pick. In addition, the Buccaneers gave Revis a six-year, $96 million deal with a flat rate of $16 million per year. While the deal lacked a long-term guarantee, it meant Revis essentially made an extra $11 million that year, as the Jets had to pay him a $1 million bonus during the offseason on top of what he got from the Bucs. All for a player who basically missed an entire season and was hurt.
Logan Mankins - Mankins, a guard, was a restricted free agent in 2010 with New England. He missed the first 6 games of the season in a holdout, only returning in time to get credit for an accrued year so he wouldn't be restricted again. Despite missing that time, Mankins was tagged as the Patriots' franchise player in 2011. Shortly before the season started, he then agreed to a six-year, $51 million deal that included $21.5 million fully guaranteed. At the time, it was the biggest deal ever for a guard.
Vincent Jackson - Like Mankins, Jackson was a restricted free agent in 2010. The wide receiver was playing for San Diego at the time and missed the first 10 weeks of the year before reporting and fulfilling his requirement for the season. After returning to the Chargers, he got hurt and finished the season with 14 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite that paltry performance, San Diego put the franchise tag on Jackson for the 2011 season. He played one year for $11.4 million and eventually hit free agency in 2012, signing a five-year, $55.55 million deal with Tampa Bay.
Joey Galloway - After a holdout that lasted 101 days and cost him eight games during the 1999 season, Galloway was still a hot commodity in the 2000 offseason. Despite him having only 22 catches for 335 yards and one touchdown, Dallas traded two first-round picks to Seattle for him. The Cowboys gave Galloway a seven-year, $42 million contract despite the fact he held out, missed half the season and played poorly the year before.
Kelly Stouffer - Stouffer was a quarterback out of Colorado State who the then-St. Louis Cardinals drafted sixth overall. However, he never signed with the Cardinals after going through a bitter holdout. At one point, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill told Stouffer he would do everything in his power to make sure he never played in the NFL. By the 1988 offseason, Bidwill relented and traded Stouffer's rights to Seattle in exchange for a first-round pick and two fifth-rounders. Seattle also signed Stouffer to a contract he found acceptable.
Dez Bryant - Bryant is the best among a group of players who missed time in college for a variety of reasons yet still ended up being drafted relatively early. The star wide receiver played in only three games with Oklahoma State in 2009 before being ruled ineligible for violating NCAA rules. That didn't deter Dallas from selecting Bryant 24th overall, however.
Jermaine Gresham - Like Bryant, Gresham came out for the 2010 draft after missing the entire 2009 season with a knee injury. Despite that, Cincinnati drafted Gresham 21st overall, ahead of Bryant.
Antonio Cromartie - Cromartie also missed all of his final season at Florida State in 2005 with a knee injury. The Chargers ultimately selected him 19th overall in the 2006 draft. He was the second cornerback to come off the board.
Mike Williams and Maurice Clarett - In 2004, Williams, a wide receiver from Southern California and a former Ohio State running back challenged NFL draft rules and declared after their sophomore years. Eventually, the federal courts upheld NFL rules, and Williams and Clarett were ruled ineligible for the draft and ineligible to return to play in college. One year later, Williams entered the 2005 draft, where Detroit selected him 10th overall.
Clarett appeared to be in a worse spot. He fell woefully out of shape and was unable to complete the workout at the NFL Scouting Combine. Many analysts believed Clarett would fall to the sixth or seventh round because of that performance (along with a host of other off-field issues). However, Denver saved him from a huge fall by drafting him in the third round.
Eric Swann - After North Carolina State declared him academically ineligible in 1989, Swann played one year at a community college and another year with a semi-pro team. He was as far removed from serious football as one could be. Despite that, the Cardinals drafted him sixth overall in 1991.
Sam Bradford - In 2009, Bradford played in only three games at Oklahoma before suffering a season-ending injury. The then-St. Louis Rams still proceeded to select Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
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The Gilbert example is still draws the strongest parallel to Miller as it goes against the standard line of thought that however much money a player doesn't get in the year he holds out, he can never make that back.
Miller's one-year offer of $14.1 million as the franchise player would seem to strongly suggest that. However, the logic goes like this: If Miller played this year and next year under the franchise tag (approximately $17 million if the Broncos tagged him again under the exclusive franchise tag), he would make roughly $31 million over those two seasons.
Editor's Note: Miller reportedly told ESPN, via ProFootballTalk.com, "No, I'm not gonna play on the franchise tag. It just doesn't make sense in any way."
By comparison, defensive end Olivier Vernon signed a five-year, $85 million deal this offseason with the New York Giants. That deal, which included $29 million in the first year and $52 million guaranteed, went to a player with 29 sacks in four seasons. Miller has 60 sacks in five seasons and is coming off a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player performance.
In other words, is it worth getting $14.1 million for one season or $31 million for two when Miller could wait a year and see if some team is willing to bid on him? A key element to consider is that if he sits out the entire year, the Broncos would not be allowed to put the exclusive franchise tag on him. That would allow another team to sign him to an offer and only have to give up a first- and third-round pick to Denver as compensation.
Would that happen? Again, the Gilbert example indicates it would. Finding talented football players is like finding a rare metal or jewel.
They are commodities whose prices don't decrease.