John Elway said in December he does not plan to let Justin Simmons walk, and nothing appears to have changed on this front as free agency nears. The Broncos safety expects to receive the franchise tag. After the CBA-related delay, the tag window is set to open Feb. 27 and close March 12.
“We expect to get franchise-tagged,” Simmons said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio’s Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn (via NFL.com). “We’re kind of sitting on the optimistic side of things, just because in the past when the Broncos have used the tag and Elway’s used it, they’ve always worked out a long-term deal.”
Simmons would be the fifth Broncos tag in Elway’s GM era, following Matt Prater (2012), Ryan Clady (2013), Demaryius Thomas (2015) and Von Miller (2016). All four signed extensions before the mid-July deadline. With Simmons being one of Elway’s top draft picks — chosen 98th overall in 2016 — it seems a near-certainty the Boston College alum will be tagged if the sides cannot come to an extension agreement by March 12.
A safety tag is expected to cost nearly $13MM. But the safety market reawakened in 2019, with Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Kevin Byard and Eddie Jackson moving the bar past the $14MM-per-year point. While Simmons has no Pro Bowls on his resume, he finished last season as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 overall safety and led all safeties with 15 passes defensed.
The Broncos are projected to hold $62MM-plus in cap space — sixth-most in the league. Although they already have a $12MM-AAV deal in place at safety, having signed Kareem Jackson last year and moved him from cornerback to safety, that contract only features one more season of guaranteed money. At 26, Simmons is five years younger than Jackson. An extension for the former will run beyond the life of Jackson’s pact, which goes through 2021.
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