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View from the O-Zone: Miller extension as feel-good as it gets


JACKSONVILLE – This was as feel-good as it gets.

His teammates around the Jaguars' locker room felt good for him Tuesday, and Roy Miller darned sure felt good.

Yes, there was the matter of life-changing money and the very meaningful moment of telling his family, yes, they could call Jacksonville their permanent home …

But there was more than that.

To Miller, the Jaguars' veteran defensive tackle, signing a four-year contract extension Tuesday was all of those things. As importantly, it meant he will keep playing with this franchise, with these teammates, for this coach.

"I couldn't be any happier," Miller said in the EverBank Field locker room Tuesday after fighting tears and receiving congratulatory hugs and high-fives from teammates of all position groups. "The D-line, you couldn't ask for a better group of guys … a better coach in (defensive line) coach (Todd) Wash … (Head) Coach Gus (Bradley) … everything about this place, I just want to be here. … I'm kind of at a loss for words."

Make no mistake:

This was a popular move – and not just in the Miller household.

It was popular among his defensive line-mates, who to a man will tell you Miller is an underrated, critical reason that group is perhaps the strongest on the team this year. He's not a sacks guy, but nose tackles aren't sacks guys.

He is a stout guy. A guy who holds the point. A guy who disrupts. A guy who helped make defensive end Andre Branch a very good run-defending end earlier this season. A guy who helps Jaguars linebackers stay free to pursue. And a guy who really has helped the guy who starts next to him.

That's why Sen'Derrick Marks was smiling Tuesday.

And if the smile maybe wasn't quite as wide as when Marks – the Jaguars' sacks leader and the face of the defense – signed his own extension late last season, let's just say any width difference was negligible.

As Miller spoke emotionally to the media, Marks entered the locker room a few feet away. Marks stood in the door smiling, and rubbing his fingers against his thumb.

"Money!!!," Marks yelled toward Miller, and as Marks walked to his locker he could be heard saying to no one in particularly, "Roy's buying dinner!"

Moments later, across the locker room at his own locker, Marks said his happiness was real, and not just because of the respect every teammate has for Miller's approach on and off the field.

Marks said this contract wasn't about being a leader, or being a standup guy – though Miller certainly is both. Miller's impact on the field is real, and it's particularly real for Marks.

"Roy does a lot for the way that I play," Marks said. "He's huge for defense. For me and for the D-line, stopping the run gets us to third down. To have a guy you can count on to stop the run, we know we can get in on third-down opportunities."

Marks with 7.5 sacks is perhaps the Jaguars' best player, a guy who deserves Pro Bowl consideration. He was asked Tuesday if he would be having the year he was having if not for Miller.

"No," he answered quickly.

Marks said that was evident late last season. The defense for a little more than a month after a midseason bye last season played solidly – perhaps not as good as this season, but good enough to help the team to four victories in five games. Miller was key to that, playing through a torn labrum that became more painful as the season went on.

Finally, with two games remaining, the Jaguars placed Miller on injured reserve just after a loss to Buffalo when the pain become too much. In five games before that game, the Jaguars allowed just over 71 yards per game rushing. They allowed 153 yards in the final three.

Marks said he was sorry Miller went on injured reserve, but in another sense, he wasn't sorry.

"I wanted everybody to see how important he was," he said.

Not every move a team makes is a feel-good one, or an easy one. Tuesday's signing was both, and not only, that it was a good move that made sense on every level. The Jaguars secured a player who has been every bit as good as they believed when they signed him. And with he and Marks signed long-term, they have veteran, productive players on the interior together secured for at least three years.

Marks and Miller, in fact, are free agency at its finest. They signed within weeks of one another in the 2013 offseason, Marks on a one-year deal and Miller for two years. Both in a very real sense were on prove-it-to-me deals. Both proved it, and both are now part of the core moving forward.

It doesn't always work that way, but when it does, it's cool to see.

When it does, you see the joy of a big man genuinely grateful to have been given a chance, and genuinely proud to have taken advantage of it. When it does, you see the same big man talking about being able to look his kids in the eyes and tell them, "it's time to look for a house," that where they have lived is something more, that it's home. For real.

"Those types of things change your life, your family's life," Miller said. "You can't ask for anything better than that."

When it works out as it did with Miller Tuesday, you get that rare moment when a team and teammates are genuinely happy to be part of one of the best moments of a guy's life and career.

And stories don't get much more feel-good than that.

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