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Broncos slapping franchise tag on All-Pro Justin Simmons

Justin Simmons, Broncos

The best safety in football is staying in Denver.

The Broncos are officially franchise tagging Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons, per multiple reports. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the two sides are expected to continue negotiating a long-term contract.

Simmons is the first player to receive the tag this offseason, with the March 9 deadline looming just over the horizon.

The 27-year-old had a career-high five interceptions in 2020, also racking up 77 solo tackles (96 combined) and nine passes defended. He was not quite as tough in coverage as he had been in 2019 (43.6 QB rating). But again, the Broncos were sorely lacking assets at the cornerback spot, often leaving Simmons out to dry. He still registered a solid 77.4 overall grade, per Pro Football Focus.

It would be a bit of a surprise for the two sides not to eventually seek common ground on an extension. Simmons is likely looking to become the highest-paid safety in the NFL, but the Broncos have a decent amount of cap space and can hardly afford to lose one of their top defensive players given current needs at the cornerback position.

If nothing else, this would seem to be a sign the Broncos are focused on making Simmons part of their long-term vision. Pro Football Focus previously predicted Simmons would sign a five-year, $82.5 million deal.

George Paton is getting aggressive in his first year as general manager after John Elway stepped away from the role. Paton said Thursday the Broncos had an interest in retaining Von Miller, and they appear intent on keeping Simmons around for the long haul.