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The Denver Broncos mulled the decision almost until the deadline, but on Thursday they exercised the 2015 contract option on linebacker Von Miller, the team announced.
The Broncos had until Saturday to engage the option year, or Miller would have been scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2014 season. Miller, who is recovering from ACL surgery, now has two seasons remaining on his deal.
In 2011, the first year of the current collective bargaining agreement and the year the Broncos took Miller with the No. 2 pick of the draft, teams were given the option of a fifth year for first-round picks as part of the transition to the new rookie wage scale.
The "fifth-year option" had to be engaged by May 3, and the option-year salary doesn't become guaranteed until March 2015. It is possible for teams to engage the option year and potentially release the player at a later date before the base salary is guaranteed.
For the first 10 picks of the 2011 draft, the salary for the option is this year's transition tag salary in free agency at each position. The figure is calculated as an average of the top 10 salaries at each spot. For Miller, that would mean a $9.754 million salary if he's on the roster when the new league year begins in March 2015.
Miller joins a growing list of first-round picks from that draft who have had the fifth-year option engaged, including Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (the No. 6 pick), Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (No. 11), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (No. 5), New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara (No. 19) and defensive end Corey Liuget (No. 18).
The linebacker was John Elway's first draft selection as the team's executive vice president of football operations/general manager, taken just after the Carolina Panthers selected quarterback Cam Newton. With 30 sacks in his first two seasons, including 18.5 in 2012, Miller looked to be on a fast track to elite status, but what has happened since gave the team at least some pause before Thursday's decision.
Miller opened the 2013 season serving a six-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy -- a violation that subjects him to testing up to 10 times a month for the rest of his career. Several off-field issues, including an arrest last summer on a failure-to-appear warrant and several traffic violations, also dogged him last year.
He then tore his ACL against the Texans in December and again raised eyebrows with the team when he tried to attend a Seattle Seahawks victory party following the Broncos' 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The decision to engage the option means the Broncos will turn their attention to working out long-term deals for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, both of whom are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents following the '14 season.
Miller said at a recent appearance for his foundation that he continues to work hard to return from his knee injury and that he wants to return "a better player." The Broncos opened their offseason conditioning program April 21, and Miller has continued his rehab with the team's trainers and strength and conditioning staff.