-- When a franchise player dispute reaches the point of social media ghosting, as Von Miller's contract talks with the Broncos have, then you know a big deadline must be approaching.
We're about a month away from the July 15 deadline for franchise players to negotiate long-term deals with their teams. Players who don't have long-term deals by that deadline must play the whole 2016 season on the franchise tender and can't talk about a long-term contract again until 2017, so some of these talks will start to heat up soon.
While all but one of last year's franchise players got their long-term deal at or before the deadline, this year's group might not be so lucky. Take away Buffalo's Cordy Glenn, who already has signed, and Josh Norman, who was franchised and then un-franchised by Carolina and later signed with Washington, and there are still seven players left with the franchise designation.
At most, you can expect four of them to get long-term deals by July 15, and it might be only three.
Why? Well, whereas the players who signed at the deadline last year -- Justin Houston, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas -- all had established themselves as elite players, not everyone in this group of seven has. Those who haven't likely see their franchise-tender salaries as pretty nice numbers compared to what their team is willing to offer them on a long-term deal at this point.
Here's a look at the seven remaining franchise players and their chances of signing long-term deals before July 15.
There are two key templates here that suggest the Chiefs and Berry can get this done. First, they were able to do a deal with Houston at the deadline a year ago, so they have some experience. Second, Minnesota just signed safety Harrison Smith to a five-year, $51.25 million contract with more than $15 million guaranteed at signing and total guarantees over $28.5 million. That seems to help set the baseline for Berry's expectations.
Prediction: Berry signs something a little bit over Smith's deal before the deadline.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
Cousins and the team have had some talks about a long-term deal, but they haven't made much progress, partly because Washington would like to see Cousins repeat his 2015 performance before deciding whether to commit to him long term. If he excels again, this year's franchise number won't seem like much and actually next year's franchise number of $23.9 million won't seem completely crazy, either.
Prediction: Cousins is likely to play out the year on the franchise tender.
After Jeffery missed seven games last season because of injury, the Bears would like to see him play out the year healthy before talking to him about a long-term deal. Unlike Bryant last year, Jeffery is dealing with a new front office and coaching staff in Chicago that didn't draft him and want to be sure before deciding he's their guy for the long haul.
Prediction: It would be surprising if Jeffery got a long-term deal by July 15.
The Rams franchised Johnson and let Janoris Jenkins leave as a free agent in part because they thought they had a better chance of doing a long-term deal with Johnson. But to this point, talks between Johnson and the team have not gone anywhere. The two sides are far enough apart and the franchise number is strong enough that Johnson is comfortable playing out the year.
Prediction: Johnson is not likely to get a deal by the deadline.
Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
Denver has aggravated Miller with a slew of recent artificial deadlines and a six-year, $114.5 million offer that includes only $38.5 million guaranteed at signing. The Super Bowl MVP believes he's worth much more than that and points to free-agent deals signed this offseason by lesser players, such as Olivier Vernon and Malik Jackson, as evidence. Over the weekend, he cropped Broncos general manager John Elway out of a photo from the team's White House visit on his Instagram page. He's clearly annoyed at the way Elway has treated him during the negotiations, and it's possible that hard feelings could make it tough to get a deal done. But it's more likely that the Broncos are just taking a hard line in negotiations until they need to get something done. Miller is too important a player to mess with.
Prediction: Miller ends up getting the Broncos to improve the guarantee and structure of the deal to his liking and signing a record-breaking contract on or just before July 15.
Tucker has said it's a matter of "when, not if" he gets his long-term deal in Baltimore, and I agree. This shouldn't be a tough one to get done. The Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski set the top of the kicker market with a four-year, $17.2 million deal last year after New England franchised him.
Prediction: Tucker should come in around $4 million per year and get this done before the mid-July deadline.
This is the weirdest one. After Miller, Wilkerson is the top player in this group and clearly a high-end defensive lineman worth signing. The Jets would benefit from the cap room they'd create by signing Wilkerson long term and reducing his 2016 cap number -- especially if they're ever going to come to an agreement with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. But so far, the Jets have not seemed at all interested in negotiating a long-term deal with Wilkerson. They have invested a lot of resources in the defensive line, and they have a decision looming within the next year or so on Sheldon Richardson. So the team could delay its decision here, especially knowing Wilkerson's 2017 franchise number of $18.8412 million isn't that out of whack for top defensive linemen anyway. There has been talk outside the Jets' building about trading Wilkerson, and that could be an option that helps their defensive line logjam and their cap situation. But the Jets are hoping to make a playoff run and would obviously have a harder time doing that without him. A lot would have to change in order for this deal to get done. So far, the Jets just don't seem interested in paying a premium price on a long-term commitment to this player.
Prediction: I think Wilkerson is stuck on the franchise tag for 2016.