Von Miller will likely be a dominant NFL linebacker in the near future. Leading analysts have the Texas A&M stud coming off the board early in April, with Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft predicting the Cardinals to take Miller with their fifth overall pick.
But before he’s on the field for a single NFL snap, and before he’s even the property of a professional football team, Miller has a legal matter to resolve. His name is listed alongside established future hall of famers like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as part of the antitrust lawsuit against the league and its owners.
At first it’s baffling to see Miller’s name in binding black-and-white legal ink as one of the 10 players listed. He’s representing a group that he doesn’t even belong to yet, at least not in the sense that he has a jersey to pull over his head and an NFL city to call his own. But legally, Miller has a major interest in the courtroom boxing match that’s about to take place, just like every other rookie that’s about to have their name announced on draft day.
As both Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio and Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explain, having a rookie involved in the legal wrangling allows the players to raise any concerns they have regarding a rookie wage scale. Miller may not quite carry the public cache of a Cam Newton or Nick Fairley, but he’s still a high-profile prospect who’s respected among his peers.
But of course there’s more to the selection of Miller than name value. The players could have hand-picked any rookie to be included in their legal fight, but Barrows makes the educated guess that DeMaurice Smith tabbed Miller because he’s represented by Athletes First, a group of agents that includes Andrew Kessler. From there it’s easy to draw the line to Andrew’s father Jeffrey, who is a lawyer for the players.
Miller’s inclusion in the players’ lawsuit inevitably leads to questions over how it may impact his draft position. Logical thinking would say that teams are concerned primarily with his talent and ability to fill a need on their roster, and not his legal affiliation. The owners are still human and bitterness remains a remote possibility, but it’s easy to see teams viewing his inclusion in the players’ lawsuit as a sign of maturity and leadership.
We can only hope an owner isn’t immature enough to influence a decision to pass on Miller because of his involvement in the labour mess. But it’ll still make for an awkward little moment on April 28th when Roger Goodell announces Miller’s name after sitting across from him in a courtroom.