Justin Simmons

Broncos Unlikely To Bring Back S Justin Simmons

A number of veteran safeties were let go in the lead-in to free agency, and many remain unsigned well after the draft. That includes Justin Simmons, who saw his eight-year Broncos tenure come to an end in March.

Denver’s decision to cut bait created $14.5MM in cap savings for 2024, the final year of Simmons’ deal. The 30-year-old’s future with the team was in question before his release, given the nature of his contract. Rather than pursuing an extension to lower his cap hit, though, the Broncos made Simmons one of the most high-profile players to be let go this offseason.

The two-time Pro Bowler has not been connected to any new teams during his ongoing free agent spell. It would come as a surprise if he were to reunite with the Broncos, however. Parker Gabriel of the Denver Post writes that it appears “very unlikely” a new deal keeping Simmons in the Mile High City will be worked out. As Gabriel notes, the Broncos have not acted in a way which suggests they are open to exploring a way to renew this relationship.

Not long after Simmons was let go, fellow safety P.J. Locke was retained on a two-year deal. The latter took on starting duties when Kareem Jackson missed time through suspension in 2023, and his play earned him a new investment from the team. Denver also has Caden Sterns as well as Delarrin Turner-Yell and JL Skinner in place as returnees on the backend.

In free agency, the Broncos moved quickly in adding Brandon Jones. The former Dolphin secured $20MM on a three-year pact, and he will be counted on to replace Simmons’ production moving forward. Jones, 26, has amassed three interceptions and nine pass deflections in his four-year career. Those figures fall well short of what Simmons has accomplished (30 interceptions, 64 pass breakups), but Jones will have significant opportunities to make an impact on his new team.

Denver did not select a safety during the draft, leaving Jones and Locke as starters for the 2024 campaign. While a Simmons reunion cannot be entirely ruled out until his next contract is in place, signs point toward him playing on a new team for the first time in his career in 2024. He could represent the first of many safety dominoes in the waning stages of free agency around the league.

Broncos Release S Justin Simmons

The list of veteran safeties who will be available in free agency continues to grow. The Broncos are moving on from Justin Simmons, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. The move is now official, per a team announcement.

One year remained on Simmons’ pact – one which had an AAV of $15.25MM, sixth-highest in the league at the position – and he was set to carry a cap hit of $18.25MM. By cutting bait with the 30-year-old, Denver will save $14.5MM while generating a dead money charge of $3.75MM. The move will bring an end to Simmons’ eight-year tenure in the Mile High City, one in which he has consistently been one of the team’s top producers.

Given the nature of his cap hit, the former third-rounder’s future was called into question earlier this offseason. A report from last month noted the likelihood of a deal lowering Simmons’ cap charge, something which could have been accomplished via a restructure or extension. Instead of taking either route, though, the Broncos – met with a number of financial challenges given the enormous dead money charge the Russell Wilson release will trigger – will cut bait altogether.

Simmons has played each of his 118 career games with the Broncos, generating a well-earned reputation as one of the league’s top safeties along the way. He has recorded at least two interceptions every year, including a league-leading six in 2022. This past campaign saw continued production on the backend (three interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles), and Simmons received a second career Pro Bowl invitation as a result.

Dating back to 2019, the Boston College product has been earned second-team All-Pro honors four times while remaining healthy and productive. His 30 interceptions since his rookie campaign (2016) are the most in the NFL during that span. As a result, his absence will be sorely felt in Denver’s secondary moving forward, while a number of suitors will no doubt show interest in Simmons now that he is available.

The Broncos had a long-standing tandem at the safety spot with Simmons and Kareem Jackson serving as starters. After a campaign featuring multiple ejections, fines and suspensions, however, the latter was waived in December and claimed by the Texans. Jackson is a pending free agent, but a Broncos reunion would come as a major surprise. P.J. Locke – who took over as a starter due to Jackson’s absence – is also set to reach the open market next week, so plenty of additions could be required for the Broncos to re-build their safety depth chart.

Denver entered Thursday as one of the team’s sitting over the cap ceiling, meaning cost-cutting moves would be required. Releasing Simmons will bring the team to within roughly $1.85MM of compliance, so any subsequent maneuvering will likely not be as notable as today’s move. Still, the loss of Simmons will create a challenge for Denver as the team aims to build off the defensive rebound seen last season after a woeful start to the campaign on that side of the ball.

Simmons’ durability (seven missed games since 2018) and production should help him find a new home relatively soon. A number of teams have moved on from pricey safeties in the lead-in to free agency, however, and the likes of Jordan Poyer, Rayshawn Jenkins, Kevin Byard and Quandre Diggs are among those who have recently been released. Interested suitors will have a number of options to choose from at the safety spot, but Simmons could command the most lucrative deal among them.

Latest On Broncos S Justin Simmons

A number of position groups could see an exodus this offseason for the Broncos. Safety does not appear to be one of them, but Justin Simmons could still be a player to watch from a financial perspective.

The two-time Pro Bowler is attached to a four-year, $61MM pact. One year remains on that contract, and Simmons is due $14.5MM. None of that total is guaranteed, however, and he is set to carry a cap hit of $18.25MM in 2024. A move aimed at lowering the latter figure could thus take place.

Parker Gabriel of the Denver Post notes that “some action is likely” on Simmons’ contract. That could take the form of a restructure or extension if the Broncos remain committed to the veteran ballhawk. A trade would also create added financial flexibility, but Simmons’ absence would create a sizable roster hole on Denver’s defense. Given his durability and production, it would come as a surprise if the Broncos actively looked to move on the former third-rounder.

Simmons totaled three interceptions, eight pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles in 2023. Those figures helped earn second-team All-Pro acclaim for the fourth time in his career, demonstrating his continued ability to provide high-end play. Now 30, another multi-year commitment would thus likely be a safer investment for the Broncos than a number of other aging options at the position.

As Gabriel notes, P.J. Locke is the only Broncos safety currently set to hit the open market in March. Making a move of some kind with Simmons would create more clarity from a financial standpoint, and potentially free up funds to retain Locke after he played well filling in for Kareem Jackson. Few proven commodities reside on Denver’s depth chart beyond Simmons at the safety position (Caden Sterns, JL Skinner, and Delarrin Turner-Yell).

The Broncos were the subject of numerous trade calls leading up to the deadline, with wideouts Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton again finding themselves on the market. Simmons also received interest, although buyers unsurprisingly elected not to take on the remainder of his contract. Denver is one of several teams currently set to be over the cap, so cost-shedding moves will be required in the coming days and weeks. Moving on from Simmons would likely be an avenue the Broncos wish to avoid, but it will be worth monitoring to see if a new agreement can be worked out between the parties to soften the blow of his pact.

Broncos Set High Price On Patrick Surtain

During the leadup to the trade deadline, Patrick Surtain appeared untouchable. In the aftermath, it certainly looks like those reports depicting the Broncos’ belief in the All-Pro cornerback from a long-term perspective were accurate.

That said, the Broncos did set a price for the third-year standout. As teams called on a player deemed out of reach, Denver is believed to have asked for two first-round picks in exchange for Surtain, according to a GM who spoke with the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. And that cost may not have even sealed a deal. The Broncos set a two-first-rounder baseline for their best player, making it unlikely he would become a true candidate to be moved.

Surtain rocketed to the top tier at his position via a first-team All-Pro showing in 2022, doing plenty to help the Broncos stay in games despite a broken offense. The 23-year-old cover man can be kept on a rookie contract through 2025, with the Alabama alum on a smooth track toward seeing his fifth-year option exercised by May.

The elite perimeter corner has also played a key role in the Broncos recovering from their historic 70-20 loss to the Dolphins. In particular, the team’s first win over the Chiefs since 2015 may have changed the Broncos’ thinking. The 3-5 team shifted a bit on seller’s trades after that win, according to the GM. The Broncos were believed to be “open for business;” that turned out not to be the case.

Justin Simmons also came up frequently in teams’ talks pre-Week 8 talks with the Broncos, and it would not have taken as much to pry away the eighth-year safety. But the standout DB did not emerge in many trade rumors, despite his status as one of the league’s top ballhawks. The Jerry JeudyCourtland Sutton pair came up frequently, but the Broncos will regroup with their starting receivers, perhaps with the intent of seeing each rebuild their trade value. Offers for Jeudy and Sutton did not come close to the team’s desired asking prices. Deadline-day proposals are believed to have come in, but Sean Payton‘s updated stance of not shopping anyone turned out to lead to a rare quiet deadline day in Denver.

While Denver’s defense has recovered after a woeful start, the team’s five first-half losses will create an uphill battle toward a potential wild-card berth. The team still has road matchups with the Bills and Lions on its docket. But the Broncos’ batch of trade chips, for the most part, are all under team control through at least 2024. Garett Bolles‘ deal expires after next season, as does Simmons’. Jeudy is due a $12.99MM fifth-year option salary next season, while Sutton’s $15MM-per-year pact runs through 2025.

Broncos To Release OLB Frank Clark

OCTOBER 13: Unlike the Gregory last call, no trade partner emerged here. The Broncos are officially releasing Clark on Friday, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. With the trade deadline still nearly three weeks away, Clark’s vested-veteran status will send him straight to free agency. Inactive for Thursday night’s game, the ninth-year veteran closes his Denver tenure with 36 defensive snaps.

OCTOBER 12: The Broncos opened the season with two 2015 second-rounders residing as their highest-profile edge rushers. By Week 7, both are likely to be out of the picture. After the Broncos dealt Randy Gregory to the 49ers, they are eyeing a separation from Frank Clark.

Rumored to be a trade candidate, Clark will not face the Chiefs tonight due to what the Broncos’ injury report classifies as an illness. The Broncos, however, are preparing to move on from Clark — via trade or release — in the near future, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports.

Clark, 30, restructured his one-year, $5MM contract recently, per Yates, giving up $1.69MM in guaranteed salary. The move trims Clark’s $3.5MM base salary to the prorated veteran minimum ($841K), NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo adds. This restructure will make Clark’s contract easier to move. Clark returned to action last week against the Jets, coming back after sustaining a groin injury in practice. Holding him out of tonight’s game will protect against a reinjury.

The former Seahawks and Chiefs edge rusher has generated some trade interest, and after the Gregory move, had been viewed as available. While Clark notched two double-digit sack seasons in Seattle and made memorable contributions during Kansas City’s playoff runs, he does not have a sack or a QB hit in his limited Denver run.

Although Clark will become an interesting hired gun of sorts moving forward, he spent several weeks in free agency waiting for other edge dominoes to fall. Leonard Floyd‘s one-year, $7MM Bills pact led to the Broncos giving Clark a one-year, $5MM deal shortly after they made Brandon McManus a post-June 1 cut. On that note, the Broncos should not expect too much in trade compensation here. Though, reducing Clark’s salary to the minimum will certainly help on that front. Denver collected a 2024 sixth-rounder from San Francisco for Gregory, whom the team was prepared to cut.

After calling out Gregory for poor effort in a 70-20 demolition at the Dolphins’ hands in Week 3, the Broncos benched him and moved 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto into the lineup. Bonitto is on a tear as a starter, combining for 4.5 sacks over the past two games. The Broncos have used 2021 seventh-round pick Jonathon Cooper (three sacks) as a starter since Week 1, with Clark coming off the bench in the team’s opener. Baron Browning, a 2021 third-rounder whom the team converted from inside linebacker last year, remains on the reserve/PUP list and will not play tonight. But Browning is likely on track to debut in Week 7, Denver7’s Troy Renck adds.

Deteriorating fits notwithstanding, a suddenly woeful Broncos defense could probably use Gregory and Clark — at least while Browning is out. These separations signal more moves are likely coming for a 1-4 team. While Sean Payton stopped short of saying the Broncos were shopping veterans, other clubs believe they are open for business ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. Trade-rumor mainstays Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are likely returning to the news cycle, with Renck adding Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson are two other names to monitor.

Clark sits behind only Willie McGinest and Bruce Smith in postseason sacks, with 13.5, but he did not live up to the five-year, $104MM deal the Chiefs gave him following a 2019 tag-and-trade transaction. Clark topped out at eight sacks in a season and has not tallied more than six in a single campaign since 2019. Two arrests on gun charges in 2021 led to a two-game suspension last year, and the Chiefs cut him this offseason. Still, Clark figures to land in a contending team’s pass-rushing rotation soon.

The Broncos picked up the pieces after John Elway‘s 1999 retirement far more quickly than they have post-Peyton Manning, and the years since the latter’s 2016 exit led to Denver becoming this period’s most prolific deadline seller. After dealing Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb over the past five years, it appears the Broncos will keep going as Payton attempts to build for the future. Jeudy and Simmons are signed through 2024, with Jeudy’s fifth-year option ($12.99MM) fully guaranteed. Sutton’s four-year, $60MM deal runs through 2025; Jackson is on a one-year contract.

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Defense

While the NFL’s top 2023 cap hits go to players on offense, a number of pass rushers are tied to lofty figures as well. None check in higher than Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Williams and Chiefs D-tackle Chris Jones carry high contract-year cap hits, while the Steelers’ two front-seven cornerstones each are set to go into training camp with cap figures north of $20MM. As the salary cap climbed to $224.8MM this year, here are the top defensive cap figures as camps near:

  1. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $32.26MM
  2. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $29.37MM
  3. Myles Garrett, DE (Browns): $29.18MM
  4. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $28.29MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DL (Rams): $26MM
  6. Arik Armstead, DT (49ers): $23.95MM
  7. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $22.26MM
  8. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $21.48MM
  9. Jonathan Allen, DT (Commanders): $21.44MM
  10. Shaquil Barrett, OLB (Buccaneers): $21.25MM
  11. Grady Jarrett, DT (Falcons): $20.63MM
  12. Marlon Humphrey, CB (Ravens): $19.99MM
  13. Shaquille Leonard, LB (Colts): $19.79MM
  14. Kevin Byard, S (Titans): $19.62MM
  15. Adoree’ Jackson, CB (Giants): $19.08MM
  16. Harold Landry, OLB (Titans): $18.8MM
  17. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.15MM
  18. Jamal Adams, S (Seahawks): $18.11MM
  19. Matt Judon, DE (Patriots): $18.107MM
  20. Quandre Diggs, S (Seahawks): $18.1MM
  21. Nick Bosa, DE (49ers): $17.9MM
  22. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $17.25MM
  23. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Dolphins): $17.19MM
  24. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE (Cowboys): $17.11MM
  25. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $17.1MM

The Chiefs are working toward a second extension agreement with Jones, who is in the final season of a four-year, $80MM contract. A new deal with the star inside pass rusher would free up cap space, and DeAndre Hopkins is believed to be monitoring this situation.

As for Williams, the Giants had wanted to adjust his deal to reduce his eye-opening cap number. As of mid-June, however, no extension appeared to be on the team’s radar. The previous Giants regime signed off on the 2021 Williams extension (three years, $63MM). The Giants are also uninterested — for the time being, at least — in extending Jackson, who was also a Dave Gettleman-era defensive addition.

Donald is in the second season of a three-year, $95MM deal. The Rams gave Donald a landmark raise last year, convincing the all-everything D-tackle to squash retirement talk. A no-trade clause exists in Donald’s contract, which pays out its guarantees this year. Mosley remains tied to the $17MM-per-year deal the Mike Maccagnan regime authorized with the Jets. That contract, which reset the off-ball linebacker market in 2019, still has two seasons remaining on it due to the deal tolling after Mosley’s 2020 COVID-19 opt-out call. The Jets restructured the deal last year.

Washington now has two D-tackles tied to deals of at least $18MM per year. While Daron Payne‘s pact is worth more ($22.5MM AAV), higher cap hits on that deal will come down the road. Three years remain on Allen’s 2021 agreement. At safety, no team is spending like the Seahawks. In addition to the big-ticket deals authorized for Adams and Diggs, Seattle gave ex-Giants starter Julian Love a two-year, $6MM accord in March.

New Titans GM Ran Carthon attempted to give Byard a pay cut. That request did not go over well, but the standout safety remains with the team and has not requested a trade. Tennessee re-signed Landry on a five-year, $87.5MM deal in 2022; the veteran edge rusher has yet to play on that deal due to the ACL tear he sustained just before last season.

The 49ers can bring Bosa’s number down via an extension, which has long been on the team’s docket. As San Francisco extended Deebo Samuel just after training camp began last year, Bosa received back-burner treatment due to the fifth-year option. The star defensive end’s price undoubtedly went up during the waiting period, with the former No. 2 overall pick earning Defensive Player of the Year acclaim in the fourth year of his rookie contract.

Broncos Activate Justin Simmons, Greg Dulcich, Michael Ojemudia From IR

OCTOBER 17: Denver has now taken the lead in injury activations this season. The Broncos moved their number of available injured-list activations from eight to five Monday, moving Simmons, Dulcich and Ojemudia onto their 53-man roster. Simmons, in particular, stands to provide the biggest boost. The Broncos have used him as a safety starter for six seasons now and have him signed to a top-five contract at the position. Denver will also be without second-year safety Caden Sterns in Los Angeles.

Dulcich’s return will make Week 1 starter Albert Okwuegbunam a healthy scratch. The third-year tight end has not developed as a blocker in the way the Broncos have hoped, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets, and has seen lower-level investments cut into his playing time. He has seven catches for 50 yards this season and has played just 16 snaps over the past two games.

OCTOBER 11: The Broncos have not used one of their injured reserve activations yet; that will likely change soon. The injury-plagued team will have three performers return to practice this week.

Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons, third-round rookie tight end Greg Dulcich and third-year cornerback Michael Ojemudia will be designated for return ahead of Week 6, Nathaniel Hackett said Tuesday. Being back at practice Tuesday, as all three players were, starts each’s 21-day activation clock. For a Broncos team that lost two more starters to season-ending injuries recently (left tackle Garett Bolles and cornerback Ronald Darby), these additions should help its cause.

Simmons went down with a thigh injury during the Broncos’ season opener. Because four weeks have passed, he is eligible to return. Denver having its longest-tenured starter back when first eligible should be a boon for a defense that has continued to operate like one of the league’s best in the seven-year veteran’s absence.

[RELATED: How Damaging Has Broncos’ Start Been?]

This season marked Simmons’ first extended absence. Denver’s Seattle tilt represented his 66th straight start. The former third-round pick, who signed a $15.25MM-per-year extension after receiving his second franchise tag in 2o21, is in the second year of his once-safety-record contract. Simmons, 28, has intercepted 14 passes since 2019. His replacement, Caden Sterns, intercepted two against the Colts in Week 5; those picks were not enough to prevent a wildly panned Broncos overtime loss to the Colts.

Denver has used all four of its active-roster tight ends this season, incorporating each into offensive sets as the team transitions to Hackett’s attack. But Dulcich has been viewed as a possible starter. The Broncos used their second 2022 draft choice on the UCLA product, selecting him in Round 3. But a hamstring injury led to an IR trip to start the season.

Ojemudia, a 2020 third-round pick, was vying to be the Broncos’ top backup cornerback in training camp. After he missed most of 2021 with a hamstring malady, the John Elway-era draft choice suffered a dislocated elbow during a preseason game. The Iowa alum has not proven much as a pro yet, but Darby’s absence could lead to an opportunity. The Broncos have fourth-round rookie Damarri Mathis set to replace Darby, but Ojemudia — should the team end up activating him — could have a say in how Denver constructs its secondary going forward.

Broncos To Sign Anthony Harris, Planning Justin Simmons IR Stint

After Anthony Harris sought a release from the Eagles’ practice squad to pursue another opportunity, the veteran safety found one. The Broncos are signing Harris, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post tweets.

This is a practice squad agreement as well, but the Broncos’ current safety situation may prompt a Harris call-up soon. Nathaniel Hackett said Wednesday that top safety Justin Simmons will miss time due to a thigh injury. The team still has Kareem Jackson as a veteran back-line presence, but Simmons is one of the NFL’s premier safeties.

Hackett did not specify how much time Simmons would miss, though 9News’ Mike Klis tweets an IR stint is on tap. A four-game Simmons-less stretch would certainly deal a blow to a Broncos team that has sustained other injuries already. Denver lost Tim Patrick to an ACL tear early in training camp and played without starting linebacker Josey Jewell on Monday night. Right guard Quinn Meinerz sustained a hamstring injury against the Seahawks and is set to miss multiple games. Meinerz remains on Denver’s active roster.

Injury trouble on defense plagued the Broncos throughout Vic Fangio‘s tenure. From 2019-21, the team played only a handful of games with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in the lineup together. Last season, the Broncos also played without starting linebackers Jewell and Alexander Johnson most of the way. Perhaps the best Broncos investment between the Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson periods, Simmons has been a constant for the team. Monday night marked his 66th straight appearance.

Simmons, 29, has not missed a game since December 2017, when he spent the final three weeks on IR. In the time since, the former third-round pick has ascended to the Pro Bowl level. In 2021, the Boston College alum’s second franchise tag led to a then-safety-record contract. Pro Football Focus rated Simmons as a top-10 safety from 2019-20 and placed him 15th last season. Simmons has intercepted five passes in each of the past two years. The team will turn to second-year safety Caden Sterns alongside Jackson. A fifth-round pick, Sterns saw sub-package work as a rookie and made two starts. He intercepted two passes last season.

Harris, 30, did not make the Eagles’ 53-man roster; the team’s C.J. Gardner-Johnson trade effectively bumped the veteran defender off the team. The Eagles signed Harris to one-year deals in both 2021 and 2022. While Harris spent last season as a Philadelphia starter, he is best known for his Minnesota run. Harris joined Simmons as a 2020 franchise tag recipient. The Vikings tagged the then-Harrison Smith sidekick after he intercepted a league-leading six passes in 2019. Second-year Broncos GM George Paton was in Minnesota throughout Harris’ Vikings stay.

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Defense

After looking at this year’s top salary cap numbers on the offensive side of the ball, here is a rundown of the players counting the most toward their teams’ payrolls in 2022.

As could be expected, the salary figures here start below the quarterbacks. A few pass rushers, however, are tied to notable cap hits. Those numbers that check in within the top 20 leaguewide regardless of position. With the exception of true nose tackles and pure slot cornerbacks, every defensive position is represented here.

Here are the top cap figures on the defensive side for the ’22 season:

  1. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $31.12MM
  2. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $29.42MM
  3. Joey Bosa, OLB (Chargers): $28.25MM
  4. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $27.3MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DT (Rams): $27MM
  6. Jalen Ramsey, CB (Rams): $23.2MM
  7. Deion Jones, LB (Falcons): $20.1MM
  8. Bud Dupree, OLB (Titans): $19.2MM
  9. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.85MM
  10. Javon Hargrave, DT (Eagles): $17.8MM
  11. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $17.5MM
  12. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $17.42MM
  13. Robert Quinn, DE (Bears): $17.14MM
  14. Matt Judon, OLB (Patriots): $16.5MM
  15. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $16MM
  16. Shaquill Griffin, CB (Jaguars): $16.44MM
  17. Tre’Davious White, CB (Bills): $16.4MM
  18. J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): $15.9MM
  19. Marcus Peters, CB (Ravens): $15.5MM
  20. Carl Lawson, DE (Jets): $15.33MM
  21. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $15.1MM
  22. Lavonte David, LB (Buccaneers): $14.79MM
  23. Budda Baker, S (Cardinals): $14.78MM
  24. Romeo Okwara, DE (Lions): $14.5MM
  25. Trey Hendrickson, DE (Bengals): $14.49MM
  • Illustrating how much the cap has climbed over the past several seasons, T.J. Watt is tied to a number nearly twice that of J.J. Watt, who has been tied to $16.7MM-per-year (a defender-record number in 2014) and $14MM-AAV deals as a pro. Trailing his older brother in Defensive Player of the Year honors, T.J. is signed to an edge defender-record $28MM-per-year accord.
  • Jones’ four-year Chiefs deal vaults from an $8.5MM cap number in 2021 to the league’s second-highest defensive figure this year. The standout defensive tackle’s cap hit accompanies Patrick Mahomes‘ $35.79MM number, which is well north of his 2021 figure, on Kansas City’s new-look payroll.
  • After two franchise tags, Williams scored a monster extension in 2021. The well-paid Giants D-lineman’s cap number this year is way up from his 2021 number ($9.4MM).
  • The Rams redid Donald’s contract last month, adding no new years to the through-2024 pact. The all-world defender’s cap hit actually decreases in 2023, dropping to $26MM
  • It is not certain Deion Jones will be back with the Falcons, who have jettisoned other Super Bowl LI cornerstones from the roster since the current regime took over in 2021. But they would save just $1MM were they to release the seventh-year linebacker.
  • To date, this represents the high-water mark for Mosley cap hits on his Jets deal, which at the time (2019) began a sea change for off-ball linebacker contracts. Mosley’s cap hit, on a pact that runs through 2024 because of the linebacker opting out of the 2020 season, increased by $10MM from 2021-22.
  • Hargrave is one of five Eagles pass rushers signed to veteran contracts. The ex-Steeler’s 2021 deal accompanies Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Fletcher Cox‘s new agreement on Philadelphia’s defensive front. As cap hits do not reflect average salaries, Hargrave is the only member of this quartet tied to an eight-figure cap number in 2022.
  • Quinn has also been connected to a departure, with the 31-year-old pass rusher skipping minicamp after it became known he would like to be traded away from the rebuilding team. His cap hit tops the Bears’ payroll. The Bears would save $12.9MM by trading Quinn, should another team sign up for taking on his full 2022 base salary.

Bengals Use Franchise Tag On Jessie Bates

MONDAY: The team made it official, announcing a tag for Bates. The fifth-year safety will be tied to a $12.911MM salary if he plays the season on the tag. Bates said last month he would be disappointed if tagged, but he and the Bengals now have four-plus months to negotiate an extension.

SATURDAY: Despite working over the past two years towards a contract extension, it appears Bengals’ safety Jessie Bates is destined to play out the 2022 NFL season under the franchise tag. Bates and the Bengals won’t give up on attempts to reach a long-term deal, but they will do so with the tag acting as a failsafe, according to Tyler Dragon of USA Today. 

As a second-round pick out of Wake Forest in the 2018 NFL Draft, Bates has been everything the Bengals have asked for and more. He quickly earned a starting role as a rookie and recorded three interceptions in each of his first three NFL seasons, ending the 2020 season as Pro Football Focus’ top ranked safety. His play dipped a bit this past year, but, when his team needed him in the playoffs, Bates stepped up recording two interceptions, one in Super Bowl LVI.

Now Bates is set to extend his current contract, play the 2022 season under the franchise tag, or hit the open market. Franchises patiently waiting for him to become a free agent will likely be disappointed. Bates and Cincinnati both intend for the safety to stay long-term.

Bates has shown much frustration over the past two years, fearing the unpredictability that comes with a franchise tag. “Hopefully, I’m not under a franchise tag,” Bates said in an appearance on NFL Network. “That’s something that needs to be discussed as NFLPA a little bit. Some of the top guys got hurt under a franchise tag. It’s tough; you only get one shot at this.”

With three days until the franchise tag deadline, the Bengals are playing it safe and making sure that they have a bit of extra time. After the franchise tag window closes, the team will have nearly five more months to finalize a deal with Bates. The tag is expected to pay around $13.54MM for the 2022 season.

Bates has long said that he is not overly concerned with “the ego part of being the highest-paid safety.” The highest-paid safeties currently are Jamal Adams, Harrison Smith, and Justin Simmons. Adams is a strong safety that plays all over the field and gets compensated more in the realm of a well-paid linebacker, making him the top-earning safety in the league at an average of $17.5MM per year. Smith is a strong safety that plays a more traditional safety position than Adams. He signed an impressive four-year, $64MM deal averaging $16MM per year at the ripe old age of 31 years old. Simmons is the league’s top-earning free safety. After playing out two consecutive seasons under the franchise tag, Simmons signed a four-year, $61MM deal averaging $15.25MM per year at 27 years of age. Bates is likely aiming for the $15-16MM per year range or is maybe willing to take $14-15MM per year for an extra year or two under contract.

At 25, Bates is in a similar position as Simmons was when he received his first franchise tag. There’s no doubt that Bates could absolutely increase the value of his deal after playing under the franchise tag like Simmons did, but Bates’ concerns over the lack of security provided by the tag aren’t unfounded. Both sides will continue working towards an agreement that keeps the safety in Cincinnati long-term with the compensation and security he desires. Until that time, though, Bates will have the franchise tag hanging over his 2022 season.