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Broncos' positional outlook: Safeties

Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson's are NFL's highest-paid safety pair.
Credit: AP

DENVER — Regardless of what type of contract Justin Simmons winds up with come July 15, the Broncos are going to have the NFL’s highest-paid safety tandem in 2020.

Simmons at minimum will play for the $11.441 million franchise tag salary this year. And if he receives a new multiyear deal by the July 15 deadline as expected, his 2020 cash payout will come in considerably higher.

As of now, the Broncos and Simmons are a couple million dollars apart in negotiations, a gap that history says will close to a settlement by the deadline. During the John Elway era, the Broncos franchise tagged four other players – Matt Prater, Ryan Clady, Demaryius Thomas and Von Miller. All sat out the offseason before agreeing to multiyear deals near their mid-July deadlines.

Simmons’ safety partner, Kareem Jackson, will draw $11 million this year. So at minimum, Denver’s safety tandem will make a combined $22.441 million, or roughly 11 percent of the team’s estimated $200 million cash payroll this year.

A look at the NFL’s highest-paid safety tandems in terms of 2020 cash payout:

1. Broncos .........… Justin Simmons … $11.44 million

………………..…… Kareem Jackson …  $11 million

Total ………………………………….…… $22.44 million

2. Vikings …….......… Anthony Harris … $11.44 million

…………………......... Harrison Smith …… $8.75 million

Total ……………….……………….…..….. $20.2 million

3. Washington ......… Landon Collins .… $16 million

……………………...... Sean Davis …….. $3.53 million

Total …………………………………....… $19.53 million

4. Ravens ……….… Earl Thomas ….… $10 million

……………………… Chuck Clark ……... $7.5 million

Total ………………………………………..$17.5 million

5. Patriots ………... Devin McCourty .… $14 million

……………………... Patrick Chung ……. $3.43 million

Total ……………………………………….. $17.43 million 

6. Chiefs …………... Tyrann Mathieu ….. $11.4 million

…………………….… Daniel Sorensen … $3.75 million

Total ……………….....……………………. $15.15 million

Based on their performances last season, Simmons and Jackson are money well spent. A look at the Broncos’ safety position for 2020:

Credit: AP
This is a 2019 photo of Renaldo Hill of the Denver Broncos NFL football team. This image reflects the Denver Broncos active roster as of Monday, June 3, 2019 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

Coach: Renaldo Hill

A 7th-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals out of Michigan State in 2001, Hill filled up the aughts with a 10-year playing career, nine as a starting safety. His fourth and final stop was with the Broncos during the McDaniels’ years in 2009-10.

After coaching five years in the college ranks at Wyoming and Pitt, Hill started his NFL coaching career in Miami in 2018. This is his second season assisting offensive coordinator Ed Donatell with the Broncos.

Starters: Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson

Simmons was named second-team All Pro after he played every snap for a second consecutive season, came away with a team-best 4 interceptions and tied for second with 93 tackles.

Jackson played huge in wins at the Los Angeles Chargers and at the Houston Texans, his longtime former team, last season. He had two picks and 71 tackles before he was suspended from the final two games after an in-season DUI incident.

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos defensive back Trey Marshall reacts after a missed field goal attempt by Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Denver.

Backup: Trey Marshall, Alijah Holder

The Broncos didn’t add a veteran or drafted safety during the offseason, so it appears the team is confident Marshall can replace Will Parks as its No. 3 safety.

Undrafted out of Florida State two years ago, Marshall played in all 16 games last season and started the final two in place of the suspended Jackson. He had 15 tackles combined in those two wins against Detroit and Oakland.

Holder was a premium undrafted free agent out of Stanford last year. Because he’s both smart and speed-challenged, Holder was moved from cornerback to safety last season. He spent the first 15 weeks on the practice squad then was activated on the 46-man game-day roster the final two weeks. He got in on 23 special teams plays.

Credit: AP Photo/Rusty Costanza
Texas defensive back P.J. Locke III (11) pulls in an interception in the second half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Georgia in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.

Competing: P.J. Locke, Douglas Coleman III, Kahani Smith 

Locke was a three-year starter at Texas and surprisingly went undrafted last year. He spent last offseason with the Steelers, was cut, then was signed to the Broncos’ practice squad the final two weeks of the season.

Coleman is an undrafted rookie from Texas Tech who ranked third in the NCAA last year with 8 interceptions, but also got beat on some deep balls.

Smith was unemployed as a rookie last year after a nice two-year starting stint with UTEP.

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