By entering into the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes, Denver Broncos GM George Paton quickly reinforced his "aggressive but not reckless" philosophy, proving that it's more than a platitude that makes for a nice sound clip. However, with regard to Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons, Paton is taking a more subtle, personable approach.
Not long after arriving as John Elway's successor in the Broncos' front office, Paton called Simmons up for an informal, introductory chat, as the free-agent safety told CBS Denver's Michael Spencer. The conversation stopped short of tricky contract negotiations but was still welcomed by Simmons.
”He didn’t ask anything about contract stuff, I know he knows all that stuff anyway,” Simmons told Spencer. “But it was just cool for me that he called me and introduced himself, said he has always been a fan some afar. And then he said if you ever need anything my line is open, and kinda just left it at that, which I just appreciated that a lot.”
Making a play for Stafford was a clear statement of intent that Paton will indeed pursue all available deals, but that doesn't mean the GM should ignore the demands of retaining his team's best players. Clearly, Simmons is at the top of that list, though the cost of working out any long-term extension certainly won’t come cheap and could reach as much as $15 million per year.
If Paton ultimately is unwilling to meet that price to keep Simmons, it would immediately leave the Broncos exposed at both the safety and cornerback positions simultaneously. That would present Paton with a headache he could just as easily avoid, particularly as he is armed with substantial salary-cap space, which could more than double if the Broncos cut cap-casualty candidates Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye.
Undoubtedly, Simmons' positive reaction to Paton's unsolicited phone call might rapidly change if the GM were to follow Elway’s lead and opt to reapply the franchise tag for the second-straight year. With Paton building for the future, while keeping one eye on the demands of winning now, it’s worth noting that Simmons' agent is also only a phone call away if he wants to talk business and get a deal done sooner rather than later.