Former Broncos $61 Million NFL All-Pro Targeted to NFC South

Former Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons is one of the NFL’s best players at his position and coming off his third consecutive NFL All-Pro selection in 2023. He should be on a team.

Alas, one month before the start of training camp, he is not.

ESPN’s Aaron Schatz thinks the New Orleans Saints are the perfect fit for Simmons, who was a salary cap casualty for the Broncos after he was released with one year remaining on a 4-year, $61 million contract extension.

Simmons’ release was a solely financial decision to clear $14.5 million in salary cap space — collateral damage from the disastrous Russell Wilson contract that left the Broncos with an NFL record $85 million in dead money over the next two seasons.

“The current Saints starting free safety is Jordan Howden, a 2023 fifth-round pick who started in the second half of his rookie season and allowed 11.3 yards per target, according to FTN Data charting,” Schatz wrote. “On the other hand, Simmons was second-team All-Pro for the Broncos and may be the best free agent left available regardless of position. New Orleans should be able to fit Simmons under its salary cap, as they’ve moved from 31st to 22nd in effective cap space with some contract changes in recent weeks.”

Simmons Has Spent Career in NFL Purgatory

Simmons was a third-round pick out of Boston College in 2016 — just a few.months after the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

Denver hasn’t been back to the playoffs since, dooming Simmons to eight seasons of high-level play in football purgatory, with the Broncos never good enough to make the playoffs and never bad enough to earn a high enough pick to change the franchise.

Denver hasn’t had a winning record since going 9-7 in Simmons’ rookie year.

“I just want to win,” Simmons told ESPN shortly before he was released. “That’s my frame of mind, I just want to win, I want to help us do that, I want to see us do that, and that’s what I think about every day when I get up to come here.”

Simmons has done everything he could to make the Broncos winners. And he’s done it despite current head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph being the fifth head coach and fifth defensive coordinator he’s played for in his career.

Despite that, he’s a four-time NFL All-Pro, two-time Pro Bowler and led the NFL with 6 interceptions in 2022 despite missing five games due to injury. He also didn’t miss a single game from 2018 to 2021 — 65 consecutive starts.

Who Will Play Safety For Broncos Now?

The situation at safety could be tough to swallow for the Broncos in 2024 — has Brandon Jones starting at free safety in place of Simmons.

Jones spent the first four seasons of his career with the Miami Dolphins after they selected him in the third round (No. 70 overall) out of Texas in 2020. The Broncos signed Jones to a 3-year, $20 million contract after he started 6 games for the Dolphins in 2023 and had a career-high 2 interceptions.

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