Ask any plugged-in media type around the Denver Broncos even a month ago and you would have been told that Justin Simmons coming to terms with the team ahead of the franchise-tag deadline was a matter of course.
I was one of them. Considering GM John Elway's track record and the precedent he'd set with regard to extending franchise-tagged players ahead of the deadline, and the fact that Simmons is coming off an All-Pro season, and it seemed fait accompli.
But in matters of money, things don't always play out as planned in the NFL. For the first time since arriving in the Broncos front office back in 2011, a player Elway has franchise-tagged will not receive a multi-year extension and will play out the 2020 season on the tender.
Don't feel too bad for Simmons, though, as he'll make $11.4 million this year on the tag. For context, in the previous four seasons Simmons has played since arriving in Denver, he made a grand total of $3.069M.
It might only be for one year, but that's one heck of a raise. Can you imagine taking whatever you made last year and multiplying it by nearly 15 times?
$11.4M might not be a 'generational' windfall but it's one heck of nest egg and it's fully guaranteed.
The two sides have exchanged proposals but whatever Simmons' side asked for, it was too rich for Elway's blood. Maybe Elway's reticence has something to do with the expected revenue drop this season, maybe it doesn't.
According to Klis, the Broncos believe the offer they made to Simmons was more than fair and would have made him in the top-5 or top-6 highest-paid at his position. Simmons declined.
Maybe Elway is reluctant because the GM wants to make sure the still young safety wasn't a one-year wonder. Whatever the motivations for Elway to rebuff Simmons' counter-proposal, it automatically devolves into a 'bet on yourself' situation for the player.
Simmons has his reasons for not accepting the team's offer and he'll now get the chance to not only make a ton of money this year but if he can follow up his All-Pro season with yet another high-profile campaign in Year 2 in the Vic Fangio defense, untold riches await in 2021.
Following the 2020 season, the Broncos could franchise-tag Simmons again but it would come with a sizable increase in cost. Or, the team could allow him to hit the open market, which in Elway's case, almost always means that player is gone.
The two sides could come to terms on an extension late in the 2020 season. But they'll have to wait. Elway will get to analyze a larger sample size on Simmons, while the player will get to put more on film for all 32 NFL teams.
Simmons wants to be a Bronco. We're told the Broncos want Simmons around for the long haul. For whatever reason, the two sides couldn't get on the same page financially to make these platitudes into a reality.
I have to wonder how much of the failure to come to an accord has to do with the Broncos' new cap guru and chief negotiator Rich Hurtado. Hired this past spring, Hurtado came from the player-agent side and had a sterling reputation.
He replaced Mike Sullivan, who spent 2012-19 with the Broncos and was responsible for negotiating the four previous franchise-tagged players under Elway. Those four players received top-of-the-market offers and re-signed.
Despite Hurtado's experience on the player side, his negotiations failed to close the deal. It takes two to tango, though. Simmons declined. Hurtado and Elway didn't budge.
Hopefully, the Broncos can avoid any fallout and Simmons balls out in 2020. Only time will tell.