On Friday, Von Miller signed a 6-year, $114.5 million contract with the Denver Broncos that included a whopping $70 million guaranteed. While that is the largest contract ever for a non-quarterback it also shows just how much of a bargain JJ Watt has become for the Houston Texans.
Watt, a 3-team Defensive Player of the Year and a 4-time first-team All-Pro player, signed a 6-year, $100 million contract extension with the Texans prior to the 2014 season.
On the surface, Miller’s extra $14.5 million doesn’t seem like much when stretched out over six years. But this is the NFL and total value doesn’t mean much until you start looking at the fine print and that’s where the differences between the two contracts are more jarring.
In short, Watt’s contract is chump-change compared to Miller’s and looks a lot more like the 6-year, $85.5 million deal Malik Jackson signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars (ranks among all active NFL contracts in parentheses).
But the deal goes beyond just the different guarantees.
As with most large NFL contracts, Miller is unlikely to ever see the end of his shiny, new contract. Either he will stop being worth the money, in which case he will be released, or at some point the Broncos will renegotiate the deal to avoid the higher salary-cap hits that come later in the contract.
This season, Miller will take up just $11.4 million in cap space. But next season that number jumps to $20.4 million and $22.4 million the year after. Meanwhile, Watt’s cap figure is just $14.5 million this season and doesn’t top $15.0 million in the first six years.
Only one defensive player in the NFL has a cap hit this season over $17.0 million. That is Justin Houston who will take up $19.1 million in cap space for the Kansas City Chiefs. Miller is going to blow those figures out of the water starting next year.
On the other hand, Watt’s cap hit is the seventh-highest among defensive players, just behind Marcell Dareus of the Buffalo Bills ($14.6 million) and just ahead of Trumaine Johnson of the L.A. Rams ($14.0 million). Neither of those players made the Pro Bowl last season.
That’s a pretty good deal for arguably one of the two best defenders in the NFL.
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