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Tannenbaum: Breaking Down the Von Miller Trade

Breaking Down the Von Miller Trade

The Broncos traded OLB Von Miller to the Rams on Monday for second-round and third-round picks in 2022. As part of the deal, Denver agreed to pay $9M of Miller’s $9.7M remaining P5 Base Salary. In doing so, the Broncos received better draft pick compensation from LA. The Rams could not take on all $9.7M without making an additional move; they only had $5,317,992 in cap space according to Over the Cap.

Let’s take a look at the trade from both sides:

Denver Broncos

There are elements here of the Brock Osweiler trade in which Houston traded Osweiler, a second-round pick, and a sixth-round pick to Cleveland for a fourth-round pick. Houston’s goal was to clear Osweiler’s $16M salary from their cap. While there are clear differences between the Osweiler and Miller trades, some of the same principles apply. Namely, teams can “buy draft picks” by either taking on a player’s salary (e.g. Osweiler) or absorbing salary from a player they are trading (e.g. Miller). Other instances of this strategy include:

  • Ryan Tannehill: Dolphins traded Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick to the Titans for a 2020 fourth-round pick and 2019 seventh-round pick. The Dolphins paid $5M of Tannehill’s salary. 
  • Aqib Talib: Rams traded Talib, a fifth-round pick to Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2022 seventh-rounder. Rams were looking to clear Talib’s $4.2M salary. 
  • Leonard Williams: Jets traded Williams in exchange for a third-round pick and a conditional 2021 fourth-rounder. The Jets paid $4M of the balance of Williams’ contract.
  • Teddy Bridgewater: Panthers traded Bridgewater to the Broncos for a sixth-round pick in 2021. The Panthers paid $7M to Bridgewater.

Eating $9 million for two premium picks is smart and a good value for Denver. Miller is not the same player he once was, which is what typically happens when players return from injury. He doesn’t quite have the same burst or acceleration. He’s still a good player but not a great player, and losing a good player for half the season makes sense given the Broncos’ outlook. 

Alternatively, the Broncos could have kept Miller and received a compensatory draft pick when he signed with another team after the season. But in order to earn the comp pick, Denver would have been limited in signing other players due to the netting out process. Likewise, the maximum comp pick the Broncos could have earned is a fifth-rounder because Miller has 10 accrued seasons. Denver got the best value by making this trade with the Rams. They could have saved $9M in cap carryover if another team would have taken on Miller’s salary, but that would have resulted in worse draft compensation. 

Los Angeles Rams

From the Rams standpoint, acquiring Von Miller coheres with their overall team-building strategy. They are going all in on this roster and are clearly willing to mortgage their future draft picks in order to win the Super Bowl. You may disagree with this macro-level strategy, but every move the Rams make is aligned in this regard. Teams that try to balance winning now while building for the long-term can fail to achieve either goal. The Rams are doing their best to execute their plan, and even if it doesn’t work, it is commendable that their tactics are a direct extension of their strategy. 

In terms of draft picks, the Rams currently have four picks in the 2022 draft. They will not select in the first two rounds due to the Stafford and Miller trades. They also traded their own third-round pick in the Miller trade, but they will receive a third-round compensatory pick for the Lions hiring Brad Holmes. The other picks they currently have are their own fifth and seventh-round picks, along with the Dolphins seventh-rounder acquired in the Aqib Talib trade. 

Though the Rams are willing to part with premium picks — they won’t pick in the first round for seven straight seasons — they have shown a propensity to acquire later picks. Les Snead has the second most trade-backs of any GM since 2017 with 13. They also are currently projected to receive five compensatory picks, per Over the Cap: a fourth-rounder for losing John Johnson III, and sixth-rounders due to Troy Hill, Gerald Everett, Samson Ebukam, and Morgan Fox leaving in free agency. Trading back and playing the comp pick game helps alleviate the Rams’ lack of picks early in the draft.

Grant Reiter contributed to this story