Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Denver Broncos Community!

Justin Simmons will be staying in Denver. The only questions are how and at what price?

Zac Stevens Avatar
January 3, 2020

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos are two months away from one of their best young players hitting the open market and leaving them in the dust.

On Mar. 18 at 2:00 p.m. MST, Justin Simmons will become a free agent and will be allowed to sign with any team in the league.

But that won’t happen.

“I’ve said it all season long, it’s no shocker that I want to stay,” Simmons said after the season. “I love the defense. It works for me; I think I make it work just as well. I think it’s a good relationship.”

The feeling’s mutual, Justin. Numerous times over the past few months, both John Elway and Vic Fangio have made it clear they want the versatile safety back next year. In fact, at the end-of-season press conference, the Broncos didn’t try to hide their hand. Fangio stated Simmons is “everything we want in a player,” and Elway flat-out admitted, “we want him back.”

“You know the options there. Before we came down, I talked to Justin and said, ‘You know what, we want you back,’” Elway said, making his intentions crystal clear. “He’s a great football player, but he’s a better man. What he does outside of this building and what’s done in Denver has been tremendous. Just the type of guys he is. These are the type of guys that we want on this football team. Obviously, we have the franchise option there, but we’d like to get something done with Justin for the long term.”

As John said, there are two options to keeping the 26-year old in Orange & Blue. One is the franchise tag, which was set at $11.15 million for the 2019 season, but is likely to be north of $13 million for the 2020 season. The Broncos have until Mar. 10 to place the franchise tag on Simmons if they go that route.

It’s not uncommon for players to be vehemently against being tagged because the guarantees are significantly smaller than a long-term deal. However, Simmons made it clear he wouldn’t give pushback to being tagged, saying, “it’s a blessing either way” and noting that every time Elway’s used it in the past, a long-term deal has been signed before the season.

The other, and much more preferable option for both sides, is a long-term deal. Elway stated he won’t begin talks with his own free agents until February, leaving just over a month for the two sides to try and get a long-term deal worked out.

In the negotiations, Simmons will take into consideration the other safety contracts that he stacks up to.

“I think the best thing to do would be just kind of match up how I did in a contract year in comparison to other guys in their contract years,” Simmons said. “It’s different for everyone. Every team has a different priority and different cap space and all that stuff—I’m no expert in any of that, but it plays a role in it of itself.”

Fortunately for Simmons, he’s coming off the best year of his four-year career.

“I know what I bring to the table, and I feel like I did fairly well this year,” he said, making a case for himself. “There were things that I think I could improve on, but I’m just excited to see what this offseason brings.”

He should be excited, too. Worst case, Justin and his family are looking at a one-year payday of roughly $13 million with the franchise tag. That would be a 650 percent increase from his $2 million salary in 2019 and nearly $10 million more than his salary his first four years in the league combined.

But a long-term contract would be quite a bit more.

As Simmons looks at other safety contracts around the league, he and his agent will have their eyes set at the top of the market.

Of the seven highest-paid safeties in 2020, in terms of average salary, five of them signed deals in 2019, and one, Eddie Jackson, signed his deal on Friday. That gives Simmons and the Broncos an apt starting point.

Eddie Jackson’s fresh four-year, $58.4 million extension tops the market with an average salary of $14.6 million per year. Kevin Byard checks in at a close second at $14.1 million with Tyrann Mathieu—aka the Honey Badger—and Landon Collins on Byard’s heels at $14 million. Early Thomas, Reshad Jones, and the Broncos’ very own Kareem Jackson round out the seven highest-paid safeties with average salaries of $13.75 million, $12 million, and $11 million respectively.

A bargaining chip the Broncos will have on their side is Simmons wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl in 2019, even if he deserved to be. However, five of the seven highest-paid safeties in the league mentioned above weren’t coming off Pro Bowl years when they signed their lucrative deals, with Collins and Eddie Jackson being the exceptions.

While six of them had been Pro Bowlers at some point in their career before signing their contracts, Kareem Jackson had never been awarded the honor and still managed to lock in $11 million per year from Denver.

All seven contracts included at least $23 million in guarantees, with an average of $29.57 million.

The average contract of the seven highest-paid safeties is $13.65 million per year, with $29.57 million guaranteed and a $12.8 million signing bonus. Not too shabby for what Justin could be looking at.

Additionally, as of Friday, Simmons has a massive bargaining chip as he was named a Second-Team All-Pro—an award that carries much more value than a Pro Bowl snub.

“In my opinion, if a team wants you, you’ll be here,” Simmons stated. “There’s no hiding that I want it to work out. I just hope it does. It’ll be exciting, regardless.”

However, it happens, Simmons will be playing in Orange & Blue in 2020 and will have a hefty paycheck to do so.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?