DENVER – Justin Simmons woke up Friday and won twice.
After leading the Broncos with four interceptions and 15 passes defensed, the star safety earned second-team All-Pro honors, the only Denver player selected. Moments earlier, Bears safety Eddie Jackson received a four-year, $58.4 million deal with $33 million guaranteed. It means Simmons, a free agent, can ask for $14 million per season with a straight face. He has placed himself among the elite at his position. The Broncos talked with his agent early in the season, but there was no really traction.
General manager John Elway has made keeping Simmons a priority, with multiple options available to make it happen.
“We want him back. You know the options there. Before we came down (Monday), I talked to Justin and said, ‘You know what, we want you back.’ 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," Elway said. "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 (tag) option there (one-year, $12.5 million guaranteed), but we’d like to get something done with Justin for the long term.”
Simmons, 26, excelled in first-year coach Vic Fangio's defense, morphing from a solid player into a star. Though he was snubbed for Pro Bowl honors -- hard to believe he didn't even make it as one the three alternates -- Simmons received a higher honor. All-Pro denotes the best in the league. The former Boston College standout posted 93 tackles and his passes defensed eclipsed his combined total from the previous three seasons (13).
"I am really humbled," Simmons texted Denver7. "Obviously, the goal is first team, but to be recognized by All-Pro honors is humbling for sure. I can't wait to just keep improving. I am beyond thankful for the platform."
The All-Pro first team included the Jets' Jamal Adams and the Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick. Simmons joined Kansas City's Tyrann Mathieu as the second-team safeties.
"He should have been first team," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "But I am glad he made it though."
Added safety Will Parks, "Clearly (Simmons) is a first-team guy, but we will take it. He's gonna use it as motivation. I know J. He's happy, but he's not satisfied. He back next year killing (it). Yeahhh J."
No other Broncos were honored. Outside linebacker Von Miller was the only Broncos player to earn Pro Bowl honors with safety Kareem Jackson, Courtland Sutton and Diontae Spencer as alternates. Simmons' recognition helps ease the sting for his Pro Bowl omission.
"That's great and wonderful (news)!" linebacker Alexander Johnson told Denver7. "He is a great player and it' an honor to play with him."
Simmons is open to staying in Denver. He has checked all boxes, becoming the type of homegrown talent teams typically reward. He earned the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year honors for his community work this season, and was voted Good Guy winner for the second time as the top player in showing professionalism in dealing with the media. He is aware the Broncos could use the franchise tag to keep him.
"Anytime that’s it’s been used, long-term deals have been done (with Miller, and Demaryius Thomas most recently). Either way I’ve looked at it, it’s a blessing either way. In my opinion, if a team wants you, you’ll be here. It’ll be a blessing either way," Simmons said. "I’ve said it all season long, it’s no shocker that I want to stay. I love the defense. It works for me; I think I make it work just as well. I think it’s a good relationship. With that being said, it just has to work out. There’s no hiding that I want it to work out. I just hope it does. It’ll be exciting regardless. Whatever happens, I know it’s all on the Lord’s will. If it does happen, I’ll just further his kingdom, so it’ll be good.”