Justin Simmons Will Sign Franchise Tender but New Report Casts Doubt on a Multi-Year Deal

Chad Jensen

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.

What happens next for the Broncos? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!

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. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

Comments (12)
No. 1-8

It's sad timing for him and it sucks. He will have a devil of a time in the market when he hits FA if the cap crashes as expected. As will other FAs and high dollar players. And that's if they get a full regular season in. If not, it will be even worse. From Simmons view his situation though is about relative if he cant get paid now he might not as much later either due to league economics -so why sign a lower Bronco deal now? So both sides do ok with this...and he could get tagged again if he balls out - take that and then FA in 2022...The guy who really needs a big year in Von...or face a cram down vs restructure.


The lack of any pro bowls by Simmons may be a factor that is being evaluated in terms of a long term deal. League revenues may also fall this year because of tv only garmes or reduced fans in stadiums.


The NFL and it’s players are going to have to figure out things are changing and it’s not going to be for the better. Every time a player like Simmons becomes a free agent they expect to be the highest paid player at their position and that’s just not viable for the future of the NFL. If a season is played this year it certainly doesn’t look like on the surface it’s going to be profitable in any way no fans or little fans is going to result in millions lost. And what do we get greedy players like Justin Simmons and Dak Prescott turning down contracts because no matter how them or their agents try to spin it the fact is it’s not enough money period! No Simmons won’t get the money he is seeking if the salary cap does reduce next year that long term deal will be for a lot less than what the Broncos offered him in April.

Luke  Patterson
Luke Patterson

Great work Chad! I reported earlier this week that contact extension negotiations were close between both parties. Mike Klis reported they were more distant yesterday. There’s plenty of time to get an extension for Justin Simmons. To quote some Green Bay QB “RELAX.”


Yup. Good reading.


I know there are taxes and the player has to pay his agent, but this is more money in one year than most folks earn in a lifetime. Even if he would "only" wind up with $5,000,000 this year spread out over an earning lifetime of say 47 years (18+47=65) figures out to over $100,000 a year. That is just one year of earnings. Simmons could collect several years at that rate or higher. I can't say I am shedding any tears over this tragedy of only getting $11+ million. Invested wisely, this could multiply many times over. This is actually much better than that because he is getting this upfront and not spread out over many years.

Thomas Hall
Thomas Hall

It would be nice to have Simmons locked up with a long term deal but there is so much uncertainty that it may make sense to wait and see

Lance Sanderson
Lance Sanderson

Let me first say that I hope the Broncos can find a way to lock up Simmons for the long term because he is quitely becoming one of the top safety players in the league. He could be a cornerstone for this team not only on the field, but also as a leader in the locker room as well as in the community. There's little reason not to keep him in Denver for the next 5 years at least.

Next, this is also a brilliant move by Simmons in securing whatever money he can, especially considering the coronavirus impact on league revenue.

I completely understand wanting a long-term deal with an obscene amount of money tied to it (usually with some monopoly money attached to the end of it). It's a secure long-term future and generational wealth and security for his family.

Now, one thing I can never understand is why players don't sign the franchise tender almost immediately. Even though it's only a one year deal, the money is fully guaranteed. For Simmons, it's north of $11 million. I take that money immediately, bet on myself, and hope I don't get hurt. If I do get hurt, I'm still $11 million richer. If not, I get another shot at a franchise tender or a long term deal, while still having $11 million.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Give me that bag and I'll go make more. Playing with monopoly money sounds awesome and can offer financial security for several future generations. Signing the tag early still offers you a chance at negotiating a long term deal, and if you don't come to an agreement you are still x-amount richer.