DENVER -- The deadline passed Wednesday with barely a ripple in Denver.
After months of off-and-on talks that began early last season, the Broncos and safety Justin Simmons were unable to find common ground on a longterm contract. Simmons will now play on the franchise tag of $11.44 million.
Simmons discussed the experience for the first time Friday.
"It's a business decision, you know. If the Broncos wanted to get a deal done, they would have. The reality is that another year, franchise tag, it's like a contract year all over again," Simmons told "Good Morning Football" on NFL Network. "Year two in (coach) Vic's (Fangio) system with all the weapons we have, I am more than confident in myself and what I can do. Moving forward, we will just have to see. It's a business decision on both ends. Whatever's in my best interest and my family's best interest is always what I'm going to do."
Simmons, 26, earned second-team All-Pro honors last season, emerging as the Broncos' best defensive player. The former Boston College star delivered 85 tackles and four interceptions. He has not missed a snap in two seasons.
The Broncos offered to make Simmons around the top five highest-paid player at his position. Coming off a huge year, Simmons aimed for a contract closer to or in excess of the highest-paid safety, a number set by the Bears' Eddie Jackson in January at four years, $58.4 million with $33 million guaranteed.
Given the uncertainty of revenue streams with limited or no attendance at games and the questions surrounding future TV deals, teams were more reluctant this offseason to secure players longterm. Looking at the current roster, the Broncos could also franchise tag Simmons next season, if necessary.
Contract talks aside, Simmons believes the Broncos are on the verge of a rebound after posting three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1963-1972.
Simmons reeled off reasons on both sides of the ball, starting with his unit.
"You are talking about Von Miller. Bradley Chubb (knee) is coming back. Jurrell Casey. We have got Shelby Harris, A.J. (Alexander Johnson), Todd (Davis), myself, Kareem (Jackson), A.J. Bouye, you know. Bryce (Callahan) is coming back," Simmons said. "We just got so many weapons around the board. And we are talking year two, so guys are feeling comfortable in the system. I can't say enough good things about our defense, man. And you are talking about a motivated defense and guys willing to prove themsleves at that. We've got Drew's back. The season can't come fast enough."
Yes, the question of Drew Lock surfaced. It always does. When looking for reasons for optimism, it starts at the most important position. Lock is the seventh starter since Peyton Manning retired, and looks like a keeper in every way. Not only did he win four of five starts as a rookie, but he demonstrated leadership. And now, he has more options with the addition of running back Melvin Gordon and rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler.
"I don't believe you are pumping him up, maybe not even enough. Drew, man, I saw it in the locker room. In those five games he was playing, even leading up to when he was starting to get back when he was taking those reps against the first-team defense, it didn't matter. There was that type of swag," Simmons said. "A lot of it is just confidence, it's not even cockiness. He just goes out there, knows his ability and delivers. I think Drew is really going to step into his own this season."
Simmons was voted the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2019 and started the Justin Simmons Foundation this offseason with his wife to help disadvantaged youth. Simmons was also a prominent voice during peaceful Blake Lives Matter protests.
He was asked what the key was to keeping this conversation going.
"When I think about the NFL and what we can do as a united group moving forward -- however the players decide to protest in the upcoming season, whether that be kneeling or doing other things -- I think it would be in the best interest if the NFL supports their players and shows, 'We've got your back,'" Simmons said. "A lot of it is agreeing to disagree. I know a lot of people disagree with the kneeling for the national anthem. I think we can agree on why the kneeling is happening. I think you can agree on the principles behind it. I think that's what we are missing. Once we look past the actions and the root cause of why, I think a lot of Americans want the good of what's going on. Actions speak louder than any donations."