ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The trade of linebacker Von Miller from the Denver Broncos to the Los Angeles Rams came together during a frenzied weekend — before Broncos general manager George Paton had a chance to tell Miller or the Broncos coaches, players and staff and, perhaps most difficult of all, his son, Beau.
“He didn’t appreciate we traded Von Miller,” Paton said. “He’s still not talking to me. I get it. I understand the emotion in it.”
It was finalized Sunday and announced Monday.
Miller was the Broncos’ most decorated and longest-tenured player and is a sure bet for the team’s Ring of Fame. Paton, in his first year on the job, made the franchise-shaking move because he saw what he called a “win-win” opportunity. The Broncos received future draft capital in exchange for a 32-year-old player with an expiring contract. And Miller got the best situation possible as a reward for what he had done for the Broncos.
“We had teams call that were interested … but we wanted to do right by Von,” Paton said. “He’s done right by us for 11 years, we were going to do right, otherwise we weren’t going to trade him.”
After discussions with some in the league, as well what Paton said Tuesday after the trade deadline had passed, ESPN pieced together how the trade unfolded.
Sam Acho explains what LB Von Miller brings to the Rams’ already impressive defense.
Paton said there was some contact from the Rams “late last week” and he had the first “in-depth” conversations with Rams general manager Les Snead Friday afternoon and into the evening about a potential deal.
There was the matter of Miller’s left ankle injury suffered in the Broncos’ loss in Cleveland — the same ankle Miller had surgery on last September, forcing him to miss the 2020 season. The Rams wanted some comfort level on the injury front and, because Miller had just over $9.7 million worth of his base salary owed to him this season, the Rams also needed financial help from the Broncos.
The Rams’ cap fit was so tight that a week earlier they had traded linebacker Kenny Young to the Broncos, which gave the Rams about $1.3 million in cap relief.
Paton weighed his desire for more draft picks with the fact Miller was in the last year of a six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in July 2016. The Broncos wouldn’t get any better than a fifth-round compensatory pick if he went elsewhere in free agency.
“There was uncertainty [with the contract] … that was a layer, it was not the only thing, but it was a part of it,” Paton said.
Marcus Spears and Dan Orlovsky react to Von Miller being traded from the Broncos to the Rams.
Paton said he continued to talk to Snead through Saturday. During a brief time when he did not have a phone pressed against his ear, Paton had a chance to see an affirmation, up close and in person, of what Miller means to the Broncos’ faithful.
“My son had a playoff football game, Beau, he’s 12 years old and he had a playoff game, so I show up to the game and Von Miller is at the game,” Paton said. “… He was there to see [linebackers coach] John Pagano’s son play Pop Warner football.
“We were standing by Von, watching the game and a hundred kids came up to him — he signed every autograph and he offered to take selfies with every kid. Adults were coming up to him, this guy is a special player, a special person.”
Miller did not play the afternoon game against Washington — a 17-10 Broncos win. After the game, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Miller was “not that close” to playing because of the ankle injury.
Paton said he spoke to Snead throughout Sunday and they ironed out all issues by Sunday night. The Broncos would send Miller to the Rams, pay $9 million of Miller’s remaining salary and the Rams would send the Broncos second- and third-round picks in the 2022 draft.
The draft picks, several personnel executives contacted Tuesday said, were a quality haul for Paton given Miller’s age and the fact he could move on from the cap-strapped Rams at the end of whatever becomes of their season.
After the final “yes” was exchanged from Paton and Snead, Paton said he realized what the trade would do once it became public due to Miller’s stature.
“No doubt, this wasn’t easy, I didn’t sleep Sunday night,” Paton said. “This was not easy, this guy’s an icon, he can still rush the passer. You just have to make — it’s a win-win — you have to make the best decision for your franchise moving forward and we just felt this was at this time.”
“This is a special place. I love and appreciate you guys for all of my amazing years that I’ve had.”
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 2, 2021
Paton said he didn’t tell Miller until Monday morning. He made sure to sit down, face-to-face, to let Miller know why the trade was made and what the Super Bowl 50 MVP had meant to the franchise.
“I met with Von, John Elway met with Von, [team president] Joe Ellis met with him and Vic met with him,” Paton said. “My conversation with him was honest, it was open, it was emotional. We talked about Von’s career about how far he’s come, we talked about our current team … we talked about the Rams and how he fits.
“We wanted to do right by Von, we sent him to a great franchise, a team that’s right in the thick of it. He’s really going to fit in there and really help with the second part of his career.”
Miller then had the chance to meet with and say goodbye to his teammates and coaches before he left the Broncos’ facility. He then made a nine-minute video with the Broncos’ digital media department to thank the fans.
Miller spoke briefly, fighting back tears at times, to a small group of local media on his way out the complex and that was that.
“That’s not easy … when you have to tell somebody like Von’s we’re trading him, that’s the hardest thing I have to do,” Paton said. “[Players] are human … this is his community, so I don’t take that lightly, that was a really hard conversation. … [But] if we had to trade him that was the type of a place where we wanted to trade.”