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.
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