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Broncos notes: Simmons contract returns to spotlight

Fant irked by intentional elbow he received from Raiders assistant coach. Bolles says James "knows what he has to do to earn our trust back."
Credit: AP Photo/Justin Edmonds
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) walks off the field wearing a mask after a 31-31 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan.. 3, 2021, in Denver.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the third consecutive season, Broncos safety Justin Simmons played every single defensive snap, only this time for a much more palatable salary of $11.441 million.

Simmons played for $11.441 million because that was the franchise-tag salary for safeties this year in the event the player and the team could not reach a multiyear-contract agreement. Which Simmons and the Broncos could not. Per sources, Simmons’ agent asked for a deal worth about $15 million a year, which would have surpassed the $14.6 million annual average the Bears’ Eddie Jackson had recently received to become the league’s highest-paid safety. The Broncos countered with a deal worth about $13 million a year, per sources, which at the time would have made Simmons the sixth-highest paid safety in annual average, fifth in guarantees.

Negotiations broke off and Simmons went on to have another fine season while playing on his one-year salary, recording a career-best five interceptions and getting elected to the AFC Pro Bowl team.

He was one of 13 NFL players who played on the franchise tag this year, an unusually high number caused by the uncertainty of the havoc COVID would play on league revenues. While the salary is nice, football players would prefer not to play their high-risk injury game on just a one-year deal.

"You learn that it's a business and it's a business on both ends for whatever team and for the player," Simmons said Monday in a Zoom interview with the Denver media. "Obviously, I said it before the tag before the season began how I'm betting on myself and it's a business decision at the end of the day for myself and I'm going to do whatever's best for my family. It's no disrespect to anything other than the fact that I'm just going to want to do what's best for my wife, my daughter, and just my family in general."

With the salary cap expected to be cut from $198.5 million per club to about $175 million this year because of lost revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic, negotiations between Simmons and the Broncos could become even more complicated this offseason. Five safeties are averaging at least $14 million a year, but those deals were negotiated before the expected salary cap reduction. The Broncos could tag Simmons for a second consecutive year, this time at a mandatory 120 percent increase to $13.729 million.

But would Simmons consider playing a second year on the franchise tag?

"I haven't had the chance to really sit down and have a conversation with my agent yet, so … don't really have an answer," he said.

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (87) catches a pass from quarterback Drew Lock (3) against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Denver.


Fant gets Woody Hayes'd by Raiders coach

Late in the first half of the Broncos’ 32-31 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Broncos tight end Noah Fant caught a short pass in the flat from Drew Lock and powered through a couple Raiders tacklers until his momentum carried him out of bounds along Raiders sideline. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden dodged the onrushing Fant, but defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil was caught trying to sneak a deliberate elbow at the tight end.

A ticked off Fant threw the ball at O’Neil, missed, then gave the coach a one-hand shove.

"That’s never happened to me before," Fant said. "I thought that was very unprofessional. I’m not sure what coach does that. … he went out of his way to shoulder me and he totally turned me around. I feel like I acted accordingly. I don’t believe that I should have had some sort of maturity and said, ‘I’m going to be the bigger man.’

"As I’m coming off the field, I should never be shoulder checked by a coach, if even a player. I was disappointed in myself for missing him, not hitting him with the ball (laughed). But things happened in the game so hopefully we can move on from that."

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles (72) warms up before an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Denver.

Bolles sends message to James

Left tackle Garett h, who has only missed one game in four seasons and that one was because medical people refused to let him play because of COVID concerns (which turned out to be negative), was asked Monday about right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who barely played in 2019 because of a knee injury questioned by the team and all of 2020 as a COVID opt-out.

"He knows what he has to do to earn our trust back," Bolles said. "At the same time, we’re going to open our arms and love him and take care of him. He has a lot of work to do to get where he needs to be, and I know he’ll do that."

Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James (70) stretches during NFL football training camp in Englewood, Colo.

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