Report: Broncos expected to use franchise tag on Von Miller

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) runs with a recovered fumble during the fourth quarter in a AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos cannot afford to let Von Miller walk in free agency, and they’re prepared to use the franchise tag on the outside linebacker.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported as much, adding that the New York Jets may do the same with Muhammad Wilkerson.

At worst, the franchise tag will allow the Broncos an extended period to finalize a long-term deal with Miller. He would earn approximately $14.1 million otherwise, per CBS Sports projections.

That might actually be the prudent move for Denver, since Miller is likely to demand a contract similar to the one Justin Houston signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Last summer, he inked a six-year, $101 million agreement with more than $50 million in guaranteed money.

Depending on how the Broncos manipulate the numbers, a nine-figure deal would have a larger cap hit than the franchise tag anyway. Unless Miller essentially agrees to save a couple millions for additions and other re-signings, he’ll want to finalize a big-money, long-term contract.

Yes, that could come at the expense of significant contributors like Malik Jackson or Danny Trevathan. Considering the injury risk, though, there’s no reason we should expect Miller to sacrifice six years of immense financial gain — especially if Denver hoists the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 50.

Miller has racked up 60 career sacks during his five NFL seasons despite missing eight games. Only J.J. Watt (74.5) has more, while just six others — including Houston — have at least 50.

Put simply, Miller is worth every penny of a new contract. His agents and the Broncos should work to agree on a deal that keeps Miller in the Mile High City for years to come, but Denver must slap the franchise tag on the 26-year-old star if those negotiations stall.