Handing guaranteed money to Zach Miller isn’t going to help the Bears on the field in 2018, but it should engender a lot of goodwill in the locker room.
When Zach Miller went down with a gruesome leg injury last October doctors weren’t convinced they could save his leg. Now, the tight end is trying desperately to make his comeback with the Chicago Bears. Credit the team for giving him more than just a spot on the 90-man preseason roster.
The Bears front office has re-signed Miller to a one-year deal where he will make $458,000 whether he plays a down or not. That’s a tremendous financial guarantee for a player who is unlikely to make the 53-man roster. At best, Miller could earn up to $790,000 in 2018.
It’s fair to say the NFL isn’t known as a compassionate league on the whole. Most players who suffer serious injuries end up reaching quiet injury settlements with their respective teams. It may sound crass, but essentially the teams are paying the smallest price possible to get the player to go away quietly.
The Bears had zero obligation to pay Miller any additional salary. His contract with Chicago ended at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign. The Bears could have opted to let Miller languish in free agency. No one would have criticized them for letting Miller twist in the wind.
Instead, they’ve chosen to give him a pretty generous parachute payment. The decision almost certainly won’t help the Bears on the field. It would require a minor miracle for Miller’s leg injury to recover enough to become an impact player again. Where it can help the Bears, is in their locker room.
Most NFL players are very conscious of the fact that their careers can end in an instant. It only takes one injury to send a millionaire to the unemployment line. The fact that the Bears are taking such a concrete step to protect one of their own will be noticed around the league. It may not cause big name free agents to start flocking to the Windy City, but it’s going to be noticed by more than a few potential signees.
That certainly wasn’t the reason the Bears decided to hand Miller guaranteed money, but it will serve as a happy, unintended consequence. If nothing else, it’s a great story of compassion in a league that doesn’t feature a ton of it.