Broncos Sign Veteran as Potential Replacement for Justin Simmons

Anthony Harris

Getty Anthony Harris celebrating in a playoff game against New Orleans.

The Denver Broncos made a roster move on September 14th by signing veteran safety Anthony Harris to their practice squad. Entering his eighth season in the NFL, Harris started his career with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2015, but moved his way up to the active roster playing in just four games as a rookie.

From 2016 on, Harris appeared in at least 14 games each season while in Minnesota. In fact, Harris started in all 30 games he appeared in during his final two seasons with the Vikings.

In 2019, Harris had his best year in coverage knocking down 11 passes and intercepting six. The following season, 2020, Harris was third on the team in tackles with 104.

In the offseason of 2021, Harris signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles which led to 14 starts combining for 72 tackles and three pass deflections. In March of 2022, Harris signed another one-year deal to stay with the Eagles, was released on August 30, 2022. He was then signed to the practice squad the next day and was released on September 5.

The former Virginia Cavalier, also has plenty of playoff experience. Playing in six playoff games, Harris has 33 tackles and an interception. It’s also no surprise that Harris is connected to Broncos’ general manager George Paton. The second-year general manager was part of the Minnesota front office from 2007-2020.

Justin Simmons Place on IR

Broncos safety and ironman, Justin Simmons will be placed on short-term injured reserve with a quad injury that he suffered during the game against the Seahawks. The All-Pro safety will have to miss a minimum of four games. Simmons, who might be the best defensive player for the Broncos, has started in 66 straight games dating back to 2018.

“It’s hard to replace a guy like Justin Simmons and what he does for our defense and what he does in the locker room and for the team with his leadership,” safety Kareem Jackson said.

“It’s tough. I’m sure everyone in the community knows what type of guy he is on and off the field. For us, we pride ourselves on having the next guy available ready.

In the first game of the season, Simmons combined for nine tackles and recovered a fumble. Simmons also played in all 55 snaps against Seattle.

Next Man Up is Caden Sterns

Second-year safety Caden Sterns will step up in Simmons’ place. Sterns started in two games last season, but appeared in 15.

The former Texas Longhorn has been used as more in the dime package for the Broncos, meaning he’s out there filling in as an extra defensive back, but lining up in the linebacker spot.

“Caden has played a ton of ball at a high level in this league in such a short time, but he’s a smart player,” Jackson said. “We’ve used him in a bunch of different roles.”

Last year, Caden Sterns was one of just seven defensive backs with at least 2 interceptions, 2 sacks and 5 passes defensed. 

When talking to the Denver media on Wednesday, Sterns was asked about Simmons. “With a guy like that going down you’ve got to make sure you’re on your Ps and Qs.” Sterns added, “My job is to go in there and make sure there’s no fall-off, be making plays and obviously communication and just making sure everybody’s in line right, stuff like that.”

With Simmons being out at least four games, Sterns is expected to face quarterbacks Davis Mills, Trey Lance, Derek Carr, and Matt Ryan. With all running different offenses, Sterns will have his hands full moving forward.

Sterns knocked down five passes last season and got to the quarterback twice in his limited role. It will be interesting to see how creative defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero will get with his dynamic safety.

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