The Denver Broncos chose not to sign Justin Simmons to a multi-year contract extension, opting instead to stick to the franchise tag the team had applied to the safety early this past spring. Earning $11.441 million on the franchise tag, Simmons definitely received a sizeable raise, nearly tripling what he earned over the duration of his four-year rookie contract. For one season.
That’s what playing at an All-Pro level in a contract year can do for a safety. Simmons entered negotiations with Denver this past offseason in hopes of becoming the highest-paid safety in the game.
However, the Broncos wanted to see him duplicate his 2019 body of work before rolling out the long-term money. The early returns? So far, GM John Elway looks like he was wise to ‘rent’ Simmons for one more year instead of getting tied down to a mortgage.
Simmons has floundered through the first quarter of the season. Outside of all the injuries the Broncos have suffered, Simmons’ regression might be the biggest disappointment thus far.
Although he’s still earning top-10 safety grades from the likes of Pro Football Focus, anyone who’s watched the Broncos’ four games this year can observe that he’s been far from the same high-impact player he was last year. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, of all the options the Broncos have on-roster, Simmons currently makes the most sense if Elway were of a mind to make a deal.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN can foresee the Broncos potentially trading Simmons away to the Dallas Cowboys before the October 29 deadline in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick.
Broncos fans would likely want to hold out for a Jamal Adams-sized package in return for their star safety, but that’s just not realistic. Adams was two years away from free agency, while Simmons is already on his first franchise tag. The Broncos weren’t able to come to terms on a contract extension before the season with the Boston College product, and with Simmons set to make $13.7 million on a second franchise tag against a $175 million cap next year, things aren’t going to get any easier.
If Denver loses its next two games and falls out of the playoff race at 1-5, it will have to face facts. There’s no sense in having Simmons play the second half of a lost season before letting him leave in free agency. Locking in a second-round pick gets the Broncos a better pick than a third-round compensatory selection, has that pick arrive a year early and allows general manager John Elway to spend in free agency without negating that would-be compensatory pick.
It might pain some fans to hear it but Barnwell’s logic is not flawed. If the Broncos aren’t able to at least split these next two games, beating either the New England Patriots this week, or the Kansas City Chiefs in Denver next, if a team like the Cowboys were willing to give up a second-rounder next year, plus a mid-round pick, knowing the financial obstacles that could await this team in 2021, it would be a deal too good to pass up.
Now, if Simmons were balling out, it’d be a different story. It’s typically not advisable to deal away elite players in the midst of their prime.
Simmons hinted in 2019 that he could have elite potential but through the first quarter of this season, he’s playing at a replacement level. If the right team came calling, offering up a second-round pick in exchange for Simmons, that’s a deal Elway should take all day long and twice on Sunday.
I wouldn’t expect a deal to happen. Although, Elway has been active in years past at the trade deadline. In 2018, Elway dealt away all-time wideout Demaryius Thomas and Pro Bowler Emmanuel Sanders in 2019.
The way Simmons is playing, I have a hard time seeing any team being willing to offer up a second-round pick for him,…