DENVER -- The Broncos view Justin Simmons as a cornerstone player. He isn't going anywhere. The question remains can they secure him on a longterm deal?
The Broncos bought themselves until July 15 to negotiate a multi-year contract after placing the franchise tag on him Friday.
This was always the expected move, with general manager John Elway explaining he would do it at the NFL combine last month. If a deal cannot be worked out, Simmons would play on the roughly $11.5 million guaranteed one-year contract. There is a possibility Simmons will stay away from team activities this offseason, his absence the only leverage for tagged players to try and ramp up talks.
As this process played out, Simmons was aware that every player Elway has tagged, among them Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Clady, all received longterm deals.
"Either way I’ve looked at it, it’s a blessing. In my opinion, if a team wants you, you’ll be here. It’ll be a blessing either way. 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," Simmons said at the end of the season. "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.”
Elway hired Rick Hurtado, Simmons former agent, as his vice president of football administration this offseason. Hurtado knows exactly what Simmons' value is, so can his knowledge help bridge the gaps?
"You would hope so, but bottom line it has to be fair to Justin and it has to be fair to us," Elway said. "Hopefully we can get to that point no matter who’s representing him or us, we can come to an agreement."
Added Elway on Friday to the team's website, "We remain focused on reaching a longterm agreement with Justin, and he's a big priority for us. This is a placeholder in that process and the goal is the same — to make sure that Justin is a Bronco for a long time."
Former agent Joel Corry, an analyst for CBS Sports, projected a Simmons' longterm contract at four-year, $60 million with $33 million guaranteed. That deal would top safety Eddie Jackson's $58 million contract. Jackson is more decorated, but Simmons made a huge jump last season, earning second-team All-Pro honors after posting 93 tackles and four interceptions. He blended well with Fangio's cerebral defense, allowing Simmons to read and react.
The Broncos attempted to secure a deal last fall. Per sources, the guaranteed money exceeded the value of back-to-back franchise tags. Simmons, however, bet on himself, and now is in position to ask to be the game's highest paid safety. The money going to Simmons and the acquisition of cornerback A.J. Bouye, who took his physical recently and will become a Bronco on Wednesday, paves the way for Chris Harris Jr. and Will Parks' exits.
Harris has several teams showing strong interest: Cowboys, Jets, Lions, Raiders, Texans, Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns, Chiefs and Chargers. His camp is not expecting an offer from the Broncos before the legal tampering period begins Monday at 10 a.m. Parks would like to return to Denver, but seeks a starting opportunity. Multiple teams are courting him because of his versatility, talent and toughness.
As of now the NFL plans to move forward with free agency, though it could change depending on the players vote on the CBA proposal on Saturday night.