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Paton needs to right Elway’s wrong on the Justin Simmons front

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

One of the most important moves John Elway made an executive with the Broncos was his first move. During the 2010 season, Josh McDaniels had failed to extend the contract of Champ Bailey. Once Elway became an executive, prior to the lock out, the Broncos were able to correct McDaniels mistake and reach an agreement to keep Bailey in Denver.

Now that George Paton has taken over the general manager of the Broncos, he can correct one of Elway’s failed negotiations.

Justin Simmons played the 2020 season on the franchise tag after failing to come to an agreement on an extension with the Broncos last offseason. Simmons expressed disappointment that he the Broncos were unable to make him one of the top paid safeties in the NFL.

Simmons bet on himself and put together a Pro Bowl season in 2020. Now, he is in position to negotiate a big contract.

Right after the 2020 season concluded, Simmons in many ways acted as if his time in Denver has come to an end. He spent extra time on the field, and following the press conference, he expressed gratitude to the media that has covered him the last five seasons. It sounded like goodbye.

If Simmons felt he would not be returning to the Broncos in 2021, I can’t blame him. The Broncos let Simmons know what they thought of him as a player when they did not sign him to a long-term extension.

To be specific, Elway and Matt Russell let Simmons know what they think of him as a player. After the season finale loss to the Raiders, Simmons was likely unaware of the upcoming change at the general manager position.

With Elway and Russell no longer the decision makers, Simmons and George Paton can negotiate without the lingering mistrust that developed last offseason. Much like Elway corrected Josh McDaniels’ mistake with Champ Bailey, Paton can correct Elway’s mistake with Simmons.

There are some differences, Simmons is not the caliber of player that Champ Bailey was, but Simmons is younger than Bailey at the time of his extension. The commonality is both Bailey and Simmons played at elite levels for Broncos teams that were poorly constructed. Both wasted some of their best seasons on bad Broncos teams.

Since arriving in Denver, Simmons has done everything that has been asked of him. He is an All-Pro, a Pro Bowler, improved his play year after year despite three head coaching changes, and has by far been the most reliable player on the roster. Beyond his stellar play on the field, Simmons is an outstanding teammate and has been great for the community.

If Justin Simmons is not worthy to be paid as a top player, then I’m not sure what qualifies.

It’s hard to imagine there weren’t hurt feelings between Elway and Simmons after last year’s negotiations. With Paton in charge, the relationship between Simmons and the Broncos will have a clean slate. Paton can build trust with Simmons without having to repair a fractured relationship.

When approaching Simmons, Paton can reiterate that Simmons presence on the roster is crucial if the Broncos are going to right the ship. He is a franchise player and will be treated as such. A new vision can be presented to the star safety that can persuade him to stay in Denver.

Elway did make a great decision in extending Garett Bolles during this past season. Now Paton can match that by bringing back Justin Simmons. This is a good message to send to the locker room. Guys will be rewarded for performing well. Pro Bowlers and All Pros have not been easy to come by for the Broncos in recent years, so letting that level of talent leave would be a bit puzzling.

After years of failed drafts, the Broncos are finally getting quality play from their homegrown talent. Paton said he wants to build this team through the draft. Now is the time to set the precedent that Broncos will retain their own guys before looking to bring in free agents.

Due to the rules of negotiating on the franchise tag, the Broncos will have to wait until the beginning of free agency to get a deal done with Simmons. Paton should right the wrong of last season and give Broncos players and fans a sign that this team will not let their best players just walk out the door.