Former Broncos’ $61 Million Safety Named No. 1 Available Free Agent

Justin Simmons

Getty Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons.

Justin Simmons came to the Denver Broncos in heady times, hitting town just months after the team won Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 season.

He spent the next eight seasons establishing himself as one of the NFL’s top safeties … and seeing the postseason get further and further in the rearview mirror until he was ultimately released by the team in March 2024 to clear $14.5 million in salary cap space.

Now, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox has Simmons listed as the No. 1 NFL free agent available on June 1 — a player who could step in and possibly lift a contender’s defense to the next level.

“While former Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons never quite lived up to the then-record four-year, $61 million contract he signed in 2021, he was never a complete disappointment either,” Knox wrote. “Simmons earned his second Pro Bowl selection last season and was a second-team All-Pro selection in both 2022 and 2021. He finished his 2023 campaign with 70 tackles, a sack, three interceptions and an 89.1 percent opposing passer rating … Simply put, the gap between Simmons and the rest of the safety market is quite substantial.”

Best Landing Spots for Simmons Identified

Knox identified two Super Bowl contenders as the best landing spots for Simmons — the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Ravens have a defense that employs three safeties and could utilize Simmons from the jump.

“Baltimore has two solid starters in Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams, but it regularly used a three-deep rotation in 2023,” Knox wrote. “The Ravens, who lost Geno Stone in free agency, are apparently looking to maintain that formula and have been hunting for more safety depth.”

Eagles defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was Denver’s head coach in 2020 when Simmons had 77 tackles and 5 interceptions while earning the first of two Pro Bowl selections.

It would be easy to see Simmons supplanting Reed Blankenship at one of the safety positions and being a mentor to talented rookies like Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean.

Simmons Toiled Away on Bad Teams in Denver

Despite not making the playoffs in 8 seasons and only having one winning season — going 9-7 in 2016 — Simmons made the NFL All-Pro Team four times during his time in Denver, including each of the last three seasons.

The third-round pick out of Boston College in 2016 led the NFL with 6 interceptions in 2022 despite missing a career-high five games due to injury.

While Simmons may have played on bad teams, he was paid like one of the NFL’s very best at the position. He played 2020 on the franchise tag for the Broncos, earning $11.4 million, and had the franchise tag placed on him again in March 2021 before receiving a 4-year, $61 million contract extension just two weeks later that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

Simmons was the longest-tenured player on the Broncos roster at the time of his release, having played 118 games over 8 seasons.

“Justin Simmons’ impact as a Denver Bronco extends far beyond his exceptional play during eight seasons with our organization,” the Broncos said in a statement after Simmons was released. “In addition to growing into an All-Pro and team captain, Justin became our perennial Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year devoted to uplifting others and using his influence for positive change.”

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