BRONCOS

Sign and trade could be option for Broncos with Justin Simmons

Feb 18, 2021, 5:00 AM
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 19: Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) reacts after a defensive penalt...
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos need to find out where they are as a franchise. Are they close to competing for a world championship or are they closer to rebuilding?

The Broncos never used that forbidden word under John Elway’s tenure as general manager. But now that newly hired GM George Paton is in charge, rebuilding might be a useful word — and one that could involve safety Justin Simmons.

Considered one of the top safeties in the NFL — earning Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 and a Pro Bowl nod last season — Simmons will reportedly have the franchise tag placed on him for a second straight season by the Broncos. Since the season has been over, both sides have been allowed to negotiate a long-term deal, but there are no signs one is close to getting done.

The tag in 2020 cost Denver $11.4 million, making Simmons the seventh highest paid safety in the NFL among average salaries per season. To tag him again in 2021, it would cost the Broncos 120 percent of the 2020 tag, or $13.7 million.

Should the Broncos go that route, both sides would have some time to attempt to get a long-term deal done before a deadline comes into play before the start of the season. And if the Broncos do tag Simmons, the likely starting point for average yearly salary would be a minimum of $13.7 million per year.

But there’s another solution for the Broncos. They can sign and trade Simmons.

If Paton believes Denver needs to go into a full rebuild and don’t think they can trade for Deshaun Watson, the team could move Simmons for some high-round draft picks. But it’s unlikely a team will be willing to negotiate with Simmons and give up two first-round picks if he’s given the non-exclusive tag.

So, what could the Broncos get in return for Simmons if they can trade him to a team agreeing to give him a long-term deal?

In July, the New York Jets traded All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and a fourth-rounder to the Seattle Seahawks for two first-round picks, a third-round pick and safety Bradley McDougald.

It’s unlikely Denver could get that kind of haul in exchange for Simmons, but they could get something similar in return.

The Broncos might be able to get a late first-round pick if a team feels like Simmons can get them to the next level. Worst case scenario, Denver could get an early second-round pick and maybe a fourth- or fifth-rounder in return.

Paton could look at 2021 as an evaluation type of season. If that’s the case, it would make sense for the Broncos to save money and gain as many draft picks as possible.

Denver must also consider Simmons may not want to play for the Broncos any longer and is ready to leave and play for a contender closer to a Super Bowl.

Either way, Paton and the Broncos need to figure out if they are willing to pay Simmons as a top-three safety in the NFL and are close to making a deep playoff run.

If not, it’s time to rebuild and trade away an asset that will give Denver the best value in return.

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