Ware impacts Miller's future with Broncos

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
7:30
AM ET
If you were to make a to-do list for Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware, taking opposing quarterbacks to the ground would hold the top spot.

And in some ways it may hold down the top 10 spots. Carry 117 career sacks in your luggage into a new city, and it’s only natural for the latest employer to want you to add to the total.

"I know what they want from me and I think I can give it to them," Ware said. "I told them I think I have a lot of football still in me."

But it appears Ware also will have another role this season: mentoring teammate Von Miller.

The Broncos will make a number of decisions in 2014. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas will be on the doorstep of free agency.

They also will have to decide on Miller. Now, Ware will have a significant role in what happens with Miller and the Broncos down the road.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsLinebacker Von Miller's future with the Broncos depends on how he plays in 2014.
The 2014 season is the final year on Miller’s original contract, signed when the Broncos made him the second pick of the 2011 draft. Until July 2013, Miller was a no-brainer, foundation player for the Broncos.

But that was before his six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Before he moved into the part of the policy where he is tested up to 10 times a month for the remainder of his career. Before a missed court date and assorted traffic violations put his maturity in question. Before he tore his ACL to close out the 2013 season.

Now, instead of expecting the best of Miller, the Broncos are almost hoping for the best. Miller’s knee is now the immediate issue.

"He's coming off an ACL, that's touch and go, and right now he's doing everything he's supposed to be doing in that process," Broncos coach John Fox said. "Just another question mark. ... I suspect with today's medicine and how guys recover from those surgeries, he should be fine. ... Everything's on target."

Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has always spoken publicly about the intent to keep Miller with the Broncos long term, but this past summer came with plenty of discontent over Miller's actions as well as Miller's refusal to fully admit he had done anything wrong.

Couple that with the fact that he returned to the field heavier -- to play with more power, he said -- and didn't consistently show the fast-twitch work in the pass rush they want from him, and it's clear the team'’s decision-makers will have their eyes on Miller this season. It's clear how Miller acts, works and performs will have a lot to say about how hard the team tries to put a deal together for him at season's end.

This is where Ware comes in. In his time in Dallas, Ware was regarded as a lead-by-example player who consistently provided the best leadership in terms of performance, work ethic and knowledge of the game.

Asked if Ware's presence in the Broncos locker room could benefit Miller, both on and off the field, Fox said, "Big time. [Ware] was kind of his hero already. It will be good for them to be on the same field together, same locker room together. They’ve already had a relationship."

"I've known Von for a while," Ware said. "I look forward to being around him and helping him any way I can. He's got the talent and we can give him the knowledge of some things on the field, work with him, so he can play as fast as he can with all of that talent."

The Broncos will want to see Miller on a healthy knee, and they'll want to see Miller show he is ready to handle the next contract. If he does, they'll go in big to keep him, with a clause or two to cover themselves against any future trouble.

The Broncos signed Ware for three years and $30 million mostly for what he can do in the Broncos' defense, but also to show Miller the way.

Jeff Legwold

ESPN Denver Broncos reporter

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