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Broncos place $11.545 million franchise tag on Justin Simmons

The safety may sit out the offseason until a deal is done but Elway's history says new contract will get done before training camp.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons (31) reacts against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have informed safety Justin Simmons they are placing the franchise tag on him.

The tag comes with a $11.545 salary for safeties. There are four safeties currently averaging at least $14 million per year so while there figures to be negotiating work left to be done, Broncos General Manager John Elway is confident it will get done..

"We remain focused on reaching a long-term contract with Justin, and he's a big priority for us,'' Elway said in a statement. "This is a placeholder in that process and our goal is the same -- to make sure Justin is a Bronco for a long time."  

The franchise tag essentially prevents Simmons from reaching the unrestricted free agent market when it opens Wednesday as a competing team would have to surrender two, first-round draft picks and a contract lucrative enough to prevent the Broncos from matching. Such a cost is essentially prohibitive to NFL teams.

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Elway has a proven track record of eventually reaching agreement with his franchise-tagged players on multiyear contracts before the start of that season’s training camp. Matt Prater (2012), Ryan Clady (2013), Demaryius Thomas (2015) and Von Miller (2016) all sat out the team’s offseason program but reached accord in July of their respective tagged seasons.

Simmons was a Broncos’ third-round draft pick in 2016 out of Boston College. He played sparingly as a rookie, although he did come up with the biggest single play of the season when he blocked a New Orleans’ extra point kick that was returned by teammate Will Parks for a 2-point conversion. The block came with 1:22 remaining and turned what would have been a 24-23 loss into a 25-23 win. Simmons leaped over the line of scrimmage to block the kick -- an athletic tactic the league outlawed after the season.

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Simmons then became an every-down starter in his next three seasons. And by every day, we mean every down. He played every snap in 2017 until suffering a sprained ankle while landing on a teammate’s foot following a leaping, body-bump celebration of a strip-sack fumble recovery in game 13.

Simmons, 26, then played every snap of the 2018-19 seasons. He had four interceptions last year when he was named second-team All Pro.

Simmons has told 9News in recent months he is not one to hold out and even indicated he would play on the tag. But that was before he understood the full gravity of the business of football. Simmons will likely be advised by his agent Todd France – who also represented Thomas during his tagged season of 2015 -- to sit out the offseason until a new deal is reached.