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Stuck in the competitive AFC West, Denver Broncos star Von Miller may be feeling down and out heading into another season with his team’s quarterback in question. The Minnesota Vikings couldn’t generate pressure last season. Getting star pass-rusher Danielle Hunter back will help, but the starting role opposite of him is still up for grabs.
If Miller became available for trade, Minnesota could be a surprising landing spot for the pass-rushing legend.
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Von Miller’s history with the Vikings
If Miller wanted out of Denver, it’s possible the Vikings may be one of his preferred landing spots. The future Hall of Famer has several ties to the team, including some recent praise of a Vikings’ tackle and appreciation for the fans.
During a Broncos-Vikings scrimmage, Miller did the SKOL chant. How many occasions do visiting players publicly celebrate another franchise’s culture? While some may see that as a coincidence, his appreciation for the Vikings doesn’t end there.
From those scrimmages, Miller also expressed his respect for Vikings’ right tackle Brian O’Neill. Miller called O’Neill “one of the best right tackles in the league”.
Miller is also a big fan of the Vikings’ starting quarterback, frequently praising Kirk Cousins. When Cousins was a free agent, Miller publicly recruited the signal-caller to join Denver. Specifically, Miller even said if he could play with any quarterback, it would be the Vikings’ leader.
A year later when the Broncos were preparing to take on the Vikings, Miller doubled down on his comments, admitting he had a “whole campaign” to try and get him to Denver, calling Cousins a “great quarterback”.
Considering what he’s gone through in Denver, it’s unlikely Miller’s feelings toward Cousins have changed too much. Moreso, Miller probably just wants to get back to winning.
Find out where the Minnesota Vikings land in Sportsnaut’s NFL defense rankings
A need for speed off the edge
Minnesota struggled in a lot of areas last season, but perhaps none were bigger than their lack of a pass rush. Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman has brought in several players to help boost the competition on the defensive line, but a starter opposite of Danielle Hunter has yet to emerge.
Then, there’s the expected absence of outside linebacker Anthony Barr to start the year. The Vikings don’t have strong competition behind Barr or a surefire starter to line up at right defensive end.
Miller would add an eight-time Pro Bowl edge rusher to form a dynamic duo with Hunter. Just as Patrick Peterson switched teams after a decade of dominant play, Miller could do the same. As a few other big-name free agents have found out, the Vikings are building something and have a strong desire to compete this season.
Connection between Vikings, Broncos’ front office
Before taking over as the Broncos’ general manager, George Paton spent 19 years working alongside Spielman. Before their time in Minnesota, they spent another seven years working together in Chicago and Miami. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
There’s no doubt Paton is eternally grateful for his time spent working alongside Spielman and continues to have a great relationship with his former co-worker of nearly 30 years. Those relationships are incredibly valuable in negotiations.
Should Spielman get serious about wanting to trade for Miller, Paton may be more willing to strike a deal with his old pal. The Vikings might be a fit for another deal with Denver, why not go bigger and chase a three-time All-Pro edge rusher as well?
How Von Miller fits with Minnesota Vikings
Miller is entering the final year of his contract, owed $17.5 million this season. The Vikings have roughly just over $7 million in cap space after signing Everson Griffen. Extensions for Brian O’Neill and Harrison Smith are likely on the way, it remains to be seen how those may be structured. Spielman knows he can backload their contracts to help make room for another star.
If Miller is intrigued by coming to Minnesota, he may want a new contract anyway. After he missed the entire 2020 season, Miller may want to rebuild his value a bit before cashing in again. However, the Vikings could find middle ground by offering more money in future seasons and reducing Miller’s 2021 salary to fit him under the cap as well.
Playing outside linebacker, Miller’s pass-rushing approach is closer to Yannick Ngakoue’s standup-rush than the hand-in-the-dirt three-point stance typically seen from Vikings’ edge rushers. Whether it’s filling in for Anthony Barr while he returns to health, or completely replacing him, Miller would add another impact player to the Vikings’ front seven.
Or if Barr returns sooner than later, Miller would be an improvement over the expected rotation of D.J. Wonnum, Stephen Weatherly, and Everson Griffen at defensive end. If there’s a chance for the Vikings to add a future Hall of Fame player such as Miller, Spielman should give his old buddy George Paton a call. He’s probably already on speed dial.