Does Von Miller Really Deserve To Be NFL’s Highest Paid Defensive Player?
Word around town is that the reigning Super Bowl MVP is looking to score the NFL's richest contract for a defensive player. Now the short answer to the question of whether or not Von Miller deserves a long-term contract equal to or greater than Ndamukong Suh's $114,375,000 over six years is no, he doesn't.
Of course, Suh didn't deserve that much money either so I suppose that's kind of a trick question.
The fact of the matter is that while the average value of a star defensive player's contract has skyrocketed over the past few years, there is only so much value that a they can provide their team. There are very few defensive players over the course of history in the NFL that have become the anchor and the face of a successful franchise. Even J.J. Watt, who is easily the best Texan of all time, can only carry his team so far; and as it turns out, it usually isn't very far.
- Watt led the NFL with 17.5 sacks last year. Von Miller had 11.0.
- Navorro Bowman led the league with 154 combine tackles last year. Watt had 76 (as a defensive end). Von Miller had 30.
- Miller has one career interception. Since his rookie year in 2011, 109 linebackers have 2 or more interceptions.
- Miller has an outside 17 career forced fumbles, but he has recovered just 5. Watt has forced 15 and recovered 12. Julius Peppers and D'Qwell Jackson have both forced 15 and recovered 10.
- Miller is the best sacking linebacker in the NFL with a league-high 60.0 sacks since 2011. But as a pass rusher overall, he is second to J.J. Watt who has 74.5 across that span.
- According to Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value index, Von Miller is the 6th most valuable defensive player to his team since 2011, and the 18th most valuable player overall. That's incredibly impressive, particularly considering his team has made it to the Super Bowl twice in that span of time and he was also named Super Bowl MVP.
The problem is that there are a few defensive players ahead of him in Approximate Value that also play for some impressive teams, including Richard Sherman who is second behind J.J. Watt in terms of defensive players; as well as Patrick Peterson who comes in at third.
Basically Miller is that as an outside linebacker that is very good, possibly one of the greatest, at one thing: rushing the passer. He doesn't have the hands or the vertical game to intercept the ball. He is mediocre at best as a tackler. He is great at forcing fumbles on those big pass rushes, but once again his hands fail him when it comes to recovering a fumble to earn a takeaway for his team.
As an overall linebacker, Miller is great. But he is not the best in the league at anything but being a pass rushing linebacker. And when it comes down to it, J.J. Watt is still the best defensive player in the NFL. So now the question is boils down to whether or not the Broncos or any other team in the NFL can feel good about paying a defensive player with Miller's skill set over $20 million dollars a year, and probably over $60 million guaranteed.
Considering the fact that quarterbacks have become such prolific passers, and the way that Miller played in the last year's AFC Championship and Super Bowl, Miller will probably get the money; despite the fact that Suh has unsurprisingly turned out to be a big fat disappointment since signing his historic contract. For the Broncos sake though, let's just hope that he has a plan of attack for games in which his opposition actually has a decent offensive line.
(All stats courtesy of www.pro-football-reference.com)
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