Justin Simmons Will Sign Franchise Tender but New Report Casts Doubt on a Multi-Year Deal
Back in March, it seemed like a no-brainer that the Denver Broncos would work out a multi-year extension with safety Justin Simmons ahead of the franchise tag deadline to do so. That deadline is rapidly approaching, and while Simmons has reportedly agreed to sign his franchise tender, agreeing to a long-term deal in time is no longer a fait accompli.
On Friday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Simmons plans to sign the franchise tender this weekend, which will lock him in for 2020 with a guaranteed salary of $11.441 million. This does not mean that Simmons or the Broncos can no longer negotiate on a multi-year deal, only that the player is now under contract officially for 2020 on the franchise tag.
However, barring a multi-year extension before the July 15 deadline, Simmons will play out the coming season as yet another contract year and hit unrestricted free agency again in the spring of 2021. In a perfect world, the Broncos would like to avoid that happening but things have changed since Simmons was tagged.
GM John Elway confirmed back in April that he and Simmons' camp had exchanged offers, which was encouraging for fans. But based on the latest reporting from KUSA's Mike Klis, it sounds like Simmons and the Broncos are a lot farther apart in negotiations than we'd assumed.
Broncos general manager John Elway said prior to the NFL Draft in late-April that the team and Simmons’ agent had exchanged proposals. What he didn’t say is the two sides weren’t close enough to get a deal done well in advance of a July 15 deadline.
Klis' grammar is confusing but what he's saying is that negotiations haven't been close enough to hammer out a deal well ahead of the deadline. The two sides now only have five days left to get something done, or else Simmmons will play on the franchise tag this year.
If that's how it shakes out, it wouldn't be the end of the world. But it would be the first time in his history as the Broncos front-office czar that Elway has applied the franchise tag to a player and failed to get a multi-year extension done ahead of the summer deadline. Demaryius Thomas? Check. Von Miller? Check. The list goes on.
So what could be the hold-up here?
NFL teams are reluctant to hand out market re-setting contracts on the doorstep of a regular season in which revenues are expected to drastically dip due to the coronavirus. Fan attendance will certainly be down, which affects team revenue, which ultimately will affect the salary cap in 2021. With an uncertain financial future, Elway might view it as the more prudent approach to let Simmons play out 2020 on the tag and kick the can down the road by a year.
It might not be the worst thing, honestly. After all, if Simmons is seeking to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL, we're talking about an annual average salary north of $14.6M. Simmons might be a three-year starter, but 2019 was the first time he played at a level approaching Pro Bowl or All-Pro-caliber.
Simmons posted 93 combined tackles and picked off a career-high four passes last season. While he was straight-up snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting, Simmons did earn second-team All-Pro honors, which was a nice consolation.
Elway, in light of the pandemic and diminished revenues, might want to see Simmons duplicate those results before fully ponying up the coin to make him the top-paid safety in the NFL. In Year 2 of Vic Fangio's scheme, there's a good chance Simmons is on deck for another monster year, which could, on the flip-side, inflate his value even more come spring of 2021. That's the risk Elway takes by not consummating a deal now.
At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. As the Broncos President of Football Operations, Elway has to look out for both the short- and long-term interests of the team. Make no mistake, getting Simmons back on the one-year franchise tag might not check the long-term box but at least it satisfies the short and gives Coach Fangio his defensive lynchpin.