Monday, January 23, 2012

Broncos Found Great Production and Value in Miller, McGahee and Harris

On Monday afternoon, Patrick Smyth, the Denver Broncos Executive Director of Media Relations tweeted that the Broncos were the only team in the NFL sending a 2011 draft pick (outside linebacker Von Miller) and a 2011 free agent signee (running back Willis McGahee) to the 2012 Pro Bowl, highlighting the Broncos excellent personnel transactions last off-season.

From the draft, to signing undrafted rookies, to signing free agents, the Broncos front office - consisting of John Elway (VP), John Fox (HC) and Brian Xanders (GM) - worked hours-on-end to find the right fits for the team, at the right price. The team's first postseason appearance since the 2005 season can be considerably contributed to the remarkable job done by Denver's new front office.

In addition to the acquisitions of Miller and McGahee, the Broncos also brought in several other players that contributed greatly last season, including rookie defensive back Chris Harris, who was named to the 2011 All-Rookie Defensive Team. Overlooked by every other team in the NFL, the Broncos brought Harris to training camp as an undrafted free agent.

After looking at the salaries* of Miller, McGahee and Harris and reviewing their production, it appears that Denver hit the jackpot last off-season. According to, Miller is under a four-year contract worth $21 million dollars. Running back Willis McGahee also has a four-year deal, worth $9.5 million. Finally, defensive back Chris Harris has a three-year, $1.398 million dollar agreement with the club.

If you total up the averages, the Broncos are paying each of those players an average of just over two and a half million dollars ($2.697M) per season. To compare the Broncos salary and production numbers, we totaled up and averaged the contracts of the first defensive player selected after Miller last April (Marcel Dareus), a free agent running back similar to McGahee based on his age and production a season ago (Joseph Addi), and another underrated rookie defensive back performing well (Richard Sherman).
The average contract of those three players (Dareus, Addi and Sherman) was nearly three and a half million dollars ($3.44) per season. Below, we'll compare the player's numbers to see what kind of value the Broncos received.

Miller, a second overall draft selection, had a historic season in Denver, tying the franchise record for the most sacks by a rookie in a single season (11.5). Miller was a disruptive force as a pass rusher and against the pass, recording 64 tackles and 19 tackles for a loss. Named to the 2012 Pro Bowl, Miller cost the Broncos approximately $5.25 million last season.

In comparison, Dareus was drafted third overall by the Buffalo Bills in last years draft and had a similarly productive season, although not one as dominating as Miller's. Finishing the season with 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks, Dareus cost the Bills approximately $5.1 million in 2011.

Based on productivity, team-impact and salary, it is clear that the Broncos made the right selection in Von Miller over Marcell Dareus. Many scouts do not expect to see another player of Miller's mold come around for a long time.
Moving on to the running back position, Willis McGahee had a role on Denver's offense much like Miller had on the Broncos defense last season. The leading rusher of the NFL's best rushing attack in 2011, McGahee finished the season with 1,199 yards on the ground and scored five touchdowns. Selected to the 2012 Pro Bowl, McGahee cost the Broncos approximately $2.375 million for his 2011 services.

A fellow 2011 free agent signee, Indianapolis' Joseph Addai did not fair quite as well as McGahee. Affected by the Colts historically horrendous season, Addai finished the season with 433 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown. Costing the Colts approximately $4.667 million, Addai brought less production than McGahee in 2011, at a higher price tag.

Finally, Broncos defensive back Chris Harris made waves in the NFL as an undrafted rookie, performing better than most of the cornerbacks that were drafted a year ago. Coming in with Denver's nickel defensive package, Harris totaled 72 tackles, defended 16 passes and recorded an interception. Highly praised by Denver's coaching staff for his superb tackling skills, Harris cost the Broncos roughly $465,000 in his rookie season.

Comparable to Harris is Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman, who was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round. Statistically, Sherman had a great rookie season, recording 55 tackles, defending 17 passes and notching four interceptions. Sherman, a player that appears primed to continue to make big plays in his career, cost the Seahawks approximately $375,000.

The Broncos found great value through rookies and veterans last off-season, both through the draft and free agency. In order to return to the playoffs in 2012, Denver will have to find similar success this off-season by finding players that can contribute to the system at a better-than-average price.

* All of the contract details mentioned above are unofficial and do not include signing bonuses or escalators. To approximately find what each player was paid last season, we divided their entire salary by the number of years they are under contract.

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