Source On Rumor: Broncos Safety Justin Simmons to Cowboys?

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - This started as a media suggestion and then blossomed into a possible private message tying Denver Broncos' franchise-tagged safety Justin Simmons to the Dallas Cowboys in trade.

Will it blossom beyond that?

The concept clearly began with a speculative piece by Bill Barnwell of ESPN, who suggests the Broncos trade Simmons away to the Cowboys before the October 29 deadline in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick.

From Barnwell: "Broncos fans would likely want to hold out for a Jamal Adams-sized package in return for their star safety, but that's just not realistic. Adams was two years away from free agency, while Simmons is already on his first tag. The Broncos weren't able to come to terms on a contract extension before the season with the Boston College product, and with Simmons set to make $13.7 million on a second franchise tag against a $175 million cap next year, things aren't going to get any easier.''

Who is attracted to Barnwell's idea? It seems to some like Simmons himself might be, as he is allegedly behind a message exchange that states, "Love Mile High (City) but (The) Star is different-level.''

Should we bould bother to chase and challenge the validity of this poster actually being Simmons, the 6-2, 202-pounder from Boston College who was a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and who is presently playing for Denver under the franchise tag?

Benjamin Albright has done that for us, getting Simmons to clarify that the posts are bogus.

But that's where our search ends. Because that's where the realities begin.

Simmons is by most standards not having a terrific season in Denver. But there is an obstacle larger than that: An NFL source tells that the Cowboys and Broncos "have not'' engaged in trade conversation about the player, and it is suggested to us that the primary reason is financial.

Simmons was outstanding last year and yet the Broncos chose not to sign him to a multi-year contract extension, opting instead to stick to the franchise tag. That means he's earning $11.441 million this year as "the Broncos wanted to see him duplicate his 2019 body of work before rolling out the long-term money,'' as our Broncos guy Chad Jensen writes here. "The early returns? So far, (Denver) GM John Elway looks like he was wise to 'rent' Simmons for one more year instead of getting tied down to a mortgage.''

More Jensen: "Simmons has floundered through the first quarter of the season. Outside of all the injuries the Broncos have suffered, Simmons' regression might be the biggest disappointment thus far.''

The Cowboys recognize their needs at safety and in recent years have explored the very top of the totem pole there, right up to Jamal Adams and Earl Thomas. But before we even get to Barnwell's idea of giving up two picks for him - and Barnwell's idea of paying him a prorated $11.441 million this year and then presumably retaining him for 2021 when another tag would mean another $13.7 million - we get our source telling us "no'' to the whole concept.

"No'' to Barnwell's suggestion. "No'' to whatever Simmons himself might be messaging to friends. "No'' to the Joneses even contacting Elway to discuss a highly-expensive player performing well below his salary. (Sidebar: Social media wishes to toss Dallas receiver Michael Gallup into this conversation. Gallup could certainly serve as bait should the Cowboys choose; he's just that good and in a loaded receivers room here at The Star. But it's silly to tie him to Denver, as the Broncos' woes do not include lack of talent at this position.)

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Dallas has changed Xavier Woods safety partners this year like most people change underwear. A Jeff Heath departure, an Adams flirtation, a Thomas examination, a HaHa Clinton-Dix sign-and-release, a starting role for Darian Thompson, an elevation for Donovan Wilson and then finally, in Week 5, a practice-squadder taking over for Wilson and playing one-third of the snaps.

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The NFC East-leading Cowboys have problems at safety. But a struggling $11.441 million replacement is, according to our source, not their version of a solution.

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