Bills need to hope expensive Von Miller can regain his old form


Staff member

Hope is not a strategy.

Yet that’s kind of where the Buffalo Bills are forced to stand on star edge rusher Von Miller.

Miller did not get one sack in 14 games with the Bills in 2023. Coming off major knee surgery, he obviously was not the same player he was in 2022, when he had eight sacks in 10 games before getting hurt.

It’s not a shock that Miller struggled to regain his form at age 34.

He came back from the anterior cruciate ligament repair in just 10 months, two months earlier than it took Tre’Davious White to come back from a similar knee injury the year before. Miller still was only 13 months removed from his surgery at the end of the 2023 regular season.

Miller turns 35 on March 26. Can he regain his form of 2022 next season, when he will be 21 months removed from surgery?

The options besides hoping and praying the answer is “yes” look impractical. It would be extremely inconvenient to release him from a salary cap standpoint, with an emphasis on the word extremely.

It’s going to be hard to find anyone with a higher upside than Miller – for 2024, anyway – at a practical cost in free agency or the draft.

“I believe that I saw was his best game was the last game of the season – the Kansas City game,” said Bills General Manager Brandon Beane after the season. “And my hope is that that is a good direction for where we pick up at the beginning of next season. What he came back from and the way he worked certainly was impressive. Do I wish he was healthier through the course of the body of the season? Absolutely. But nobody worked harder to get himself back. And my hope is that he is healthy at the beginning of next season and ready to really play his best football and that this was another stepping stone.”

Miller maintained a positive attitude throughout the season but did not deny his form was not up to his standard.

“When you watch the film, it’s obvious that I’m not all the way back to where I can be,” Miller said late in December. “You just gotta keep pushing. If this was younger in my career, it’d be more of a drag on me. But right now, there’s so many things I have to be happy about. It’s bigger than just me. The main focus has always been winning games and as long as we’re doing that, I’m good. ... It’ll happen, I’ve just got to keep pushing.”

The Bills realistically are locked into Miller for one more season.

It’s easy to part ways with him after the 2024 season. For 2024, he is scheduled to count $23.7 million against the cap, with a base salary of $17 million.

If the Bills were forced to release him this spring, he would cost them $32 million in dead money, an exorbitant amount. They could spread that out over two years, taking a $17 million hit this year and a $15.4 million hit in 2024. In that sense, he would cost $6 million less than if he’s on the team this year. But that’s a bad option, because it eats up a lot of valuable space in a year when the Bills are tight against the cap.

Furthermore, finding a pass rusher in free agency with Miller’s upside for $5 million or less is hard to do. And the Bills are likely to lose both Leonard Floyd and A.J. Epenesa in free agency. Both probably will be too expensive for Buffalo.

In the spring of 2025, the Bills will be able to part ways with Miller at a dead-money cost of only $6.3 million for 2025 and $9 million for 2026. That was the preferable course of action all along, from the time the Bills wooed Miller to come to Buffalo in 2022.

The Bills surely will try to address the edge rusher position in a cost-effective way in free agency and the draft.

But expecting a rookie, even a first-round draft pick, to come in and get 10 sacks is unrealistic.

A healthy Miller could get 10 sacks.

White also was not his old self when he returned late in the 2022 season. But White looked like he had regained his Pro Bowl form early in the 2023 season, when he was 21 months removed from his surgery. Unfortunately for White, he then tore an Achilles tendon.

The Bills have to hope a better fate awaits Miller in the 2024 season.