Justin Simmons

Status Of All 15 Tagged Players Prior to July 15 Extension Deadline

The clock is ticking for tagged players to sign extensions with their teams, per the league calendar.

July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2020 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.

With less than nine days remaining until the deadline, let’s take a look at where each of the 15 tagged players stand.

Already Signed Tag

*Received transition tag (vs. franchise tag)

Haven’t Signed Tag, Won’t Hold Out

Haven’t Signed Tag, Threatening Hold Out

AFC Notes: Simmons, Newton, Ravens

Broncos safety Justin Simmons has still not signed his franchise tender, and like most players seeking new contracts, Simmons’ negotiations have been impacted in a big way by the pandemic. As a result, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post believes Simmons is more likely to play out the 2020 campaign on his $12.7MM tender than land a multi-year pact. The one caveat to that would be if Simmons is willing to give Denver a hometown discount, but there have been no real indications that he is willing to do so.

However, O’Halloran does not expect the process to be an ugly one, and he fully believes Simmons will sign his tender and report to camp if there is no new deal in place by the July 15 deadline.

Let’s take a quick trip around the AFC:

  • Much has been made of the minimal guarantee and base salary that 2015 MVP Cam Newton stands to earn under his new one-year pact with the Patriots. 49ers CB Richard Sherman took to Twitter to express his outrage over the deal, calling it “disgusting” that a player like Newton would have to settle for such chump change (and ignoring the myriad injury concerns that led to the contract). But Newton himself, in his first public comments about the financial details (via Instagram), said simply “[t]his is not about money for me. It’s about respect.” A productive season in Foxborough would lead to Newton’s market rebounding in a big way in 2021, though the Pats may be inclined to use the franchise tag on him if that happens.
  • The Ravens lost future Hall-of-Fame RG Marshal Yanda to retirement this offseason, and though the club has a number of young players who could replace him, the pandemic will likely give veterans a leg up over less experienced talents. As such, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic expects D.J. Fluker to win the starting right guard gig, while 2019 left guard Bradley Bozeman is the clear favorite to reprise his role in 2020.
  • In the same piece linked above, Zrebiec notes that the Ravens, who recently cut veteran LB Jake Ryan, did so because both sides realized that Ryan — who has only played in two games since 2017 — still wasn’t healthy and wouldn’t have enough time to get healthy and learn the team’s defense.
  • In case you missed it, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue may be prepared to sit out the entire 2020 season if he does not get traded.

Five Franchise Tagged Players Have Yet To Sign Tenders

Teams have until July 15th to hammer out long-term deals with franchise tagged players. As of this writing, there are five players who have not signed their one-year tenders: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, Broncos safety Justin Simmons, Buccaneers edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, and Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue

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The franchise tag is a sore spot for players, because it prohibits them from realizing their true value on the open market. Sometimes, players begrudgingly sign on the dotted line after skipping out on a portion of offseason activities. There have also been some notable holdouts to extend into the regular season – Le’Veon Bell, for example.

You can put Green in the former camp. The Bengals superstar wants long-term security from the only team he’s ever known, but he says he’ll sign the one-year tender if they can’t come to terms.

In the past, Simmons has indicated that he won’t skip Broncos activities, but Mike Klis of 9News speculates that agent Todd France could talk him into playing some hardball. Offers have been exchanged between the two sides, but, for now, the safety is looking at a one-year, $12.7MM proposition.

Jones – currently in line for a $16.1MM deal – has expressed frustration with the slow pace of negotiations with the Chiefs. The Chiefs, meanwhile, already have a $20MM defensive lineman in Frank Clark. Barrett, who said he’d be a good sport about signing the tender, says he’s expecting to have some movement by tomorrow, though it’s not clear if that means receiving an extension offer or putting pen to paper.

Ngakoue, of course, is prepared to go to war with the Jaguars. The two sides have been locked in a heated stalemate for a long time and the Jags say they won’t cave to the defensive end’s trade demand.

Justin Simmons, Broncos Exchange Offers

The Broncos placed the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons last month, and it sounds like things could be progressing toward a long-term deal.

Speaking to local Denver media ahead of the draft, GM John Elway said the two sides were in “active negotiations,” per Mike Klis of Denver 9 News. “We’re in negotiations right now,’’ Elway said. “We’ve given them [an] offer and they gave us an offer back,” he revealed. Simmons is currently set to make $12.7MM under the tag in 2020, and the sides have until July 15th to hammer out an extension.

The Bears’ Eddie Jackson is currently the league’s highest-paid safety at $14.6MM annually, and it’s likely that Simmons is looking to eclipse that. Klis thinks he’ll end up somewhere close to $14MM. The Broncos already have fellow safety Kareem Jackson on a three-year, $33MM deal, so they’re going to have an expensive safety duo no matter what.

Simmons had a breakout season in 2019, when he started all 16 games for the second year in a row. He picked off four passes and batted down another 15, earning Pro Football Focus’ highest grade for any safety. The Boston College product turned 26 in November.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Use Tag On Justin Simmons

John Elway indicated the Broncos would use their franchise tag on Justin Simmons if no extension occurred between the Combine and the now-twice-moved tag deadline. With no deal in place, the Broncos are tagging Simmons, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).

This marks Friday’s third tag, with the Broncos joining the Ravens (Matt Judon) and the Chargers (Hunter Henry) in locking down a top free agent. Simmons will earn approximately $12.7MM on the safety tag, according to OverTheCap, giving the Broncos a pricey safety duo.

Denver signed Kareem Jackson to a three-year, $33MM deal in 2019. A Simmons re-up will likely cost at least $14MM per year, the new going rate for top-market safeties. Eddie Jackson, at $14.6MM per year, resides as the league’s highest-paid safety.

The Broncos have not used their franchise tag since keeping Von Miller off the 2016 market, but Elway is 4-for-4 in extending tagged players. He reached extensions with Miller, Demaryius Thomas (2015), Ryan Clady (2013) and Matt Prater (2012) during his run as GM. Unless the league alters its offseason schedule, teams have until July 15 to extend franchise-tagged players.

Not yet a Pro Bowler, Simmons does not have some of the accolades his modern-era Denver tag predecessors do. But he finished the 2019 season as Pro Football Focus’ top safety. The contract-year defender led all safeties with 15 passes defensed. The Broncos saw enough from Simmons to prioritize him over four-time Pro Bowler Chris Harris, the last link to the franchise’s acclaimed Super Bowl-winning secondary. Simmons, 26, doubles as one of Elway’s best draft picks — a 2016 third-rounder — and the team’s best bet to establish some post-Harris continuity in the secondary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

POLL: Who’s The Best Free Agent Safety?

As free agency inches closer, we’ll continue previewing the impending market. One of the most interesting comparisons surrounds the safety position.

Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons are the consensus top two options at the position, but determining which should is the best option for a team in need of a new safety is a more difficult proposition. Harris, has been an established and proven veteran, while Simmons jumped to the top of the pack this year.

Harris, at 28, has ranked among the league’s best safeties in his time with the Vikings. Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Harris ranked among the five best-graded safeties in both 2018 and 2019. Over the past two seasons, he’s nabbed 9 interceptions, recorded 17 passes defended, and 106 tackles.

While Simmons does not have the longevity and track record of Harris, the Bronco graded as the 2nd best safety this season, per PFF, receiving a 90.8 grade. Simmons recorded 4 interceptions, 15 passes defended, and 93 tackles this season alone, but never graded above 80.0 prior to this season.

Most compelling to his case, at just 26 years old, Simmons could be poised to be one of the best centerfielders in football, but will teams want to gamble on that over Harris’ proven track record?

There are a number of other solid options at safety including Jimmie Ward and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but neither combine the health history and top end recent performance of Harris and Simmons.

Which safety do you prefer? Let us know in the poll below.

Broncos Ready To Tag Justin Simmons

No surprise here. On Tuesday, Broncos GM John Elway said that he’ll use the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons if he can’t reach a long-term pact with safety Justin Simmons (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). 

[RELATED: Latest On Broncos’ Joe Flacco]

Simmons has already said that he’s expecting to be tagged, though he’s optimistic about the one-year cuff leading to a multi-year agreement. As our own Sam Robinson noted earlier this week, Elway has used the tag four times during his tenure in order to keep kicker Matt Prater (2012), tackle Ryan Clady (2013), wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (2015), and edge rusher Von Miller (2016). Every time, the Broncos were able to follow up and hammer out a longer contract.

The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus pegged Simmons as the second-best safety in the NFL last year. He’s still only 26 and he has a case to be paid as one of the top players at his position.

Last year, Simmons registered a career-high four interceptions to go along with 15 passes defensed and 93 total tackles. For his part, Simmons wants to stay put.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Justin Simmons Expects Franchise Tag

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Justin Simmons, Broncos

Though both sides want to get a deal done, contract talks between safety Justin Simmons and the Broncos have yet to become serious, as Mike Klis of 9News.com reports. The franchise tag remains a possibility, and Simmons has indicated that he would be open to playing out the 2020 season under the tag.

Either way, he stands to make a handsome raise over the $2.025MM he pocketed in 2019, the final year of his rookie deal. The franchise tag is estimated to check in at $12.735MM, and Simmons would probably earn at least that much on a yearly basis if he and Denver can come to terms on a long-term pact.

Simmons and the Broncos engaged in extension talks before the 2019 season started, but the former third-round pick bet on himself and won. He notched a career-high four interceptions to go along with 15 passes defensed and 93 total tackles. He also provides the type of versatility that head coach Vic Fangio covets, which allowed him to play every single defensive snap for the second consecutive year.

Interestingly, Simmons’ former agent with Creative Artists Agency, Rich Hurtado, was recently hired by Broncos GM John Elway and was put in charge of the team’s salary cap and contract negotiations. So Hurtado, who advocated for Simmons in his earlier contract negotiations, is now on the opposite side of the table, but Simmons is not concerned. He expressed his excitement for Hurtado and reiterated his desire to stay in Denver for the foreseeable future.

“Obviously, we’d like to get a long-term deal done and speaking with Elway and all the guys there, they’re great and I love the system,” he said. “I think the system fits for both parties — for myself and for [Fangio].”

In addition to Simmons, Elway will also need to figure out what to do with a number of other key defensive players who are eligible for free agency, like Chris HarrisDerek Wolfe, and Shelby Harris.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mutual Interest Between Broncos, Simmons

Justin Simmons has delivered a strong contract year for the Broncos and is set to be one of the 2020 free agent market’s top safeties. But both sides would prefer the fourth-year defender does not reach the market.

John Elway said Tuesday during a radio interview with KOA Radio the team plans to retain Simmons, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (on Twitter). Whether that means via franchise tag or long-term commitment, the Broncos do not want to lose one of their best draft investments since the Super Bowl years.

Simmons and the Broncos engaged in extension talks before the season started, but the former third-round pick bet on himself this season. That’s worked out, with Simmons notching a career-high four interceptions and 14 passes defensed (tops among safeties this season). The Boston College product made it clear he would like to stay in Denver.

I’d love to be here; this is home,” Simmons said, via Jhabvala (Twitter link). “… Being able to come in and earn the starting spot and kind of solidify that, it’s just been great. I just hope, with that being said, it works out on both ends. Because obviously I’d love to stay, and I’ve built so many great relationships.”

To keep Simmons off the market, it will probably take an eight-figure-per-year offer. The Broncos already have a top-market safety contract on their books in the $11MM-AAV deal they gave to Kareem Jackson this year. Jackson’s deal was initially categorized as a mid-level cornerback pact, but the team moved him to safety. Jackson’s contract is only guaranteed through 2020.

The Broncos also have their franchise tag as an option; a safety tag is projected to cost approximately $11.5MM. Re-upping Simmons in advance of his age-27 season would help matters for a defense that has several key contributors as free agents-to-be. Standout cornerback Chris Harris joins defensive end starters Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris as players set to hit the market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.