Questions surrounding Von Miller’s current & future status with the Buffalo Bills have ramped up since news broke of his alleged off-field legal issues that surfaced during the Bills Week 13 Bye Week.
Assuming nothing, here are a few notable notes surrounding Miller’s contract & where things could be headed in the coming weeks.
Miller has $500,000 of 2023 compensation left to be paid out. $75,000 of that is tied to per-game-active bonuses, so if Miller misses games due to injury or if by chance he’s placed on an exempt list, he’ll forfeit $15,000 per week missed.
After 2023, the contract holds 4 years, $80M remaining, though only $10.71M of that is fully guaranteed at this time. If Miller is on the active roster next March, the remaining $6.435M of his 2024 salary will become fully guaranteed.
After 2024, none of Miller’s compensation contains an early vesting guarantee.
Buffalo’s Ability to Get Out of this Contract
If this situation escalates to a point that the Bills decide to move on, there are a few scenarios to explore.
Buffalo doesn’t wait around, releasing Miller immediately (extremely unlikely)
The Bills would need to pay Miller the rest of his 2023 salary, & $10.71M of his 2024 salary - immediately, or $11.1M. Buffalo would take on an $18.6M dead cap hit in 2023, & a $21.8M dead cap hit in 2024. The Bills don’t have the cap space to make this move right now.
The Bills release Miller next March before any NFL Punishment is Handed Down
Without any punishment from the league, things don’t change a whole lot with this contract in the offseason. The thinking here would be that Buffalo is simply trying to get out of this contract before the remaining $6.435M of 2024 salary becomes fully guaranteed. Without a Post June 1st Designation, Buffalo would take on a $32.5M dead cap hit (including $10.71M cash), which would represent an $8.6M cap loss for 2024.
A Post June 1st Designation would mean $17.084M of 2024 dead cap ($10.71M cash), & another $15.4M of 2025 dead cap. This would free up $6.8M of cap space for the Bills next year, but not until June 2nd.
Von Miller is Suspended by the NFL
The NFL usually doesn’t act on a situation like this until the legal process has been carried out. Long story short here though, if the NFL suspends Miller for violating the Personal Conduct policy, any future salary guarantee on his contract will void. For now, that would mean the $10.71M of 2024 salary, but any resolution or judgment with this issue isn’t likely to be passed down by March, so for practical purposes, we’re talking about Miller’s full $17,145,000 2024 salary here.
If Miller is suspended at any point in time before Week 1 of the 2024 season, the Bills will be able to bypass the $17.145M salary, instead taking on $21.79M of dead cap to release him ($6.3M in 2024, $15.4M in 2025 if Post June 1st).
If Miller is suspended but the Bills decide to keep him for the 2024 season, he stands to forfeit $967,500 per Week missed (base salary & per game active roster bonus).
A Cap Conundrum for Buffalo
Here’s an item that probably isn’t getting too much attention just yet - but it’s important for the Bills. Brandon Beane designed Miller’s contract to function as a signing bonus payment for Year 1, a roster bonus payment for Year 2, and a high base salary payment for Year 3. The Bills converted all of his 2023 roster bonus into signing bonus last March to free up over $10.6M of cap space for them to operate with.
The plan (assumedly) for 2024 was very similar. Buffalo would be able to convert nearly $16M of Miller’s base salary into signing bonus, freeing up $12.74M of cap space for the 2024 offseason. However, with a suspension possibly looming here, and a subsequent void of Miller’s salary guarantee attached to it, Brandon Beane will almost certainly NOT convert any of Miller’s compensation into signing bonus this March, meaning they will be forced to carry his $23.8M cap hit until further notice.
Could the Bills pay look to recoup signing bonus if Miller is suspended? This is an easier said than done proposition unfortunately, often dragged out into a long litigation process. The Bills are much better off playing the waiting game here, and leaving themselves an opportunity to forego the 2024 salary payment.
What About the Commissioner’s Exempt List?
Oftentimes when a player is dealing with an off-field incident that leaves him (and his respective team) in limbo, the NFL will step in and place the player on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.
However, placing a player on this list does not impact his ability to earn salary, nor does it reduce his salary cap figure. In essence, the player has been placed on “paid leave”, which opens a roster spot for a team, but offers little to no other benefit.