ENGLEWOOD – Justin Simmons’ unflinching leadership was evident Friday even though he wasn’t anywhere in sight at the Denver Broncos headquarters on the day he became the NFL’s highest-paid safety.
“I was just talking about it with Court (WR Courtland Sutton) in the locker room. This is big for him, big for (OLB Bradley) Chubb and all the young guys,” defensive end Shelby Harris said at a news conference celebrating his own big contract. “It shows that if you go out there and ball, the Broncos will take care of you.
“That’s the culture change that we’re talking about. This is family,” Harris said. “Justin is the highest-paid safety, and that’s what he deserves. You go out there and play, and they will give you what you deserve. That’s the right message you want to send to your players.”
The deal that agent Todd France negotiated with general manager George Paton includes $35 million in guarantees and is worth $61 million over four years.
The $15.25 million-per-year average also makes Simmons the first safety to break the $15 million mark. Last fall, Arizona signed Budda Baker to a four-year deal that averaged $14.75 million per season.
Paton hinted Thursday that the deal was coming together when he said, “I think we’re making progress. I don’t know when it will happen, but I believe we are making progress and that’s been a priority since I’ve gotten here.”
Paton succeeded John Elway as GM in January after 14 years as an executive with the Minnesota Vikings.
Although Simmons was the first player franchised tagged this offseason, Paton made it clear the $13.729 million tag was just a placeholder to keep him off the open market while they worked out a long-term contract.
Simmons’ wife, Taryn, tweeted the agreement on Friday morning: “We’re here to stay Denver! We have some big dreams for this city that we now call home. We want to win football games of course but more importantly, we want to help change lives. We love you #BroncosCountry”
A third-round pick out of Boston College in 2016, Simmons has had nearly 300 tackles and a dozen interceptions in the past three years, during which time he hasn’t missed a single snap.
He had a career-best five interceptions last season when he earned his first Pro Bowl berth a year after he was selected as an All-Pro for the first time.
Simmons has been one of the most active players in the community on a team that’s garnered a reputation for its civic involvement, and last summer Simmons emerged as one of the team’s leading voices on social justice issues.
He was the Broncos’ Walter Peyton Man of the Year nominee last season and he’s the only three-time winner of the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award given by the Denver chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America in recognition of his professionalism and depth of interaction with the media.