The Minnesota Vikings will be searching for pass-rushing assistance in the next few months. Those assets may be cultivated within (D.J. Wonnum, Ifeadi Odenigbo), but that will be considered the least desirable option. Minnesota could add a somewhat affordable free agent like Ryan Kerrigan, Everson Griffen, or Denico Autry. The pay scale for those three men would probably slide with Kerrigan as the most expensive. Alternatively, the Vikings could spend their first-round draft pick on a rookie EDGE rusher. The hypothetical first-year pass-rusher would likely start in that scenario.
But what about Von Miller?
The future Hall of Famer has stumbled upon dicey times in Denver. He is embroiled in some sort of spat with a love interest. The rumor mill states that he is under criminal investigation. At the time of this article’s publication, he could be behind bars. Or nothing may arise from the gossip whatsoever. The Digital Age of reporting will sort out the next steps.
Miller is booked for a cap hit north of $22 million in 2021. He is the highest-paid player on the Denver Broncos roster. Before any offseason moves are made, Denver is in a respectable position for cap maneuverability. It would merely improve if Miller was released.
If Denver did explore the avenue of cheaper players instead of Von Miller, the Texas A&M alumnus is well worth a look from the Vikings front office.
This is always the first item you read about for free-agent speculation — “so-and-so played for so-and-so.” Our so-and-sos here are the Kubiaks. Gary Kubiak was the skipper when the Broncos won the Super Bowl six years ago. Miller was the Super Bowl MVP. The current quarterbacks coach of the Vikings, Klint Kubiak (son of Gary) joined the Broncos the following season as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach. Now, these Kubiaks are on the offensive side of the ball for the Vikings. But it’s a safe bet that one or both of them have a relationship with Miller.
Gary Kubiak is whispered to be flirting with retirement, as he did after the 2016 season in Denver. The resolution to that hearsay has not been revealed. He could a) return to Minnesota of another hurrah as the leader of the offense b) retire from the game all together c) take a step back to the role he executed in 2019 as a “special assistant.”
Regardless, there are options. If Miller is looking for a gig, the Kubiaks likely have the 31-year-old’s number.
The trickiest component to this transaction – aside from the unknown of Miller’s status in Denver – is the dollars. Every season at this time, Minnesota’s front office opens its wallet to find a few singles in it. Here we are again.
Like the 2020 offseason, longstanding Vikings will be released or not retained. Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Harris, Shamar Stephen are at the front of the pack for this eventuality. Riley Reiff is scheduled to earn a heap of cash, and he may be approached again to renegotiate. General Manager Rick Spielman won’t part ways with droves of players like last year, but some budget trimming will happen.
The Vikings would need to find around $8-$12 million to start a dialogue with Miller. That price tag would be significantly higher had Miller played football in 2020 – but he didn’t. He injured his peroneal tendon before the season began and missed out on the Broncos underwhelming 5-11 campaign.
Former Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel, George Paton, has a decision to make as the Broncos new bossman on the team’s most expensive commodity. Should he cut bait with Miller, teams will pick up the phone.
The Pass Rush Need
Among those pass-rush-needy teams is Minnesota. Spielman may never actually call about Miller’s services, but the team incontrovertibly has a need at the defensive end position. Without Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce up front, the Vikings registered just 23 sacks – fifth-fewest in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked them in the cellar for pass-rushing efficiency. Profootballreference.com tallied Minnesota at 108 defensive pressures, which was the fourth-worst leaguewide.
All the metrics screamed futility for the Vikings 2020 pass rush. Notwithstanding a major setback, Danielle Hunter will return to the team this summer. That will help. But it is unclear if the organization values Ifeadi Odendibo or D.J. Wonnum as Hunter’s longterm co-pilot.
If a change is in order opposite Hunter, Miller adds instant ferociousness, experience, and credibility to Mike Zimmer’s defense. Let’s the speculation begin if the Broncos move on from the 10-year veteran. Thanks