We’ll be breaking down all the major and minor moves for NFL Free Agency with grades and analysis. You can find the comprehensive list of moves and grades here.
Reported deal: Four years/$61 million with $35 million guaranteed
Over the past few seasons, Justin Simmons has broken out as one of the league’s best safeties. After two franchise tags (including this offseason), Simmons is going to get paid like it as the top-paid safety in the league with his new contract. It’s another example of players such as Dak Prescott and Leonard Williams using multiple tags to set the top of the market on long-term deals.
Simmons has the versatility and range to play anywhere in the defensive backfield with snaps ranging from deep safety to the box and slot. In the Fango defense that uses two-high looks often, Simmons isn’t typically asked to cover sideline-to-sideline but can when he has to.
Simmons ranked third among safeties in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap in 2020 and while coverage metrics can be misleading (and doubly so for safeties), his ranking in the top-four with Tyrann Mathieu, Jessie Bates, and John Johnson checks out. Over the past three seasons, Simmons sixth among safeties in passes defended (28) and is tied with Mathieu for the lead in interceptions (12).
His ability to play all over the field makes the job of the other defensive backs easier and that will be important for a team trying to rework that group. The Ronald Darby signing wasn’t great, but there could be more on the horizon, such as the recently released Kyle Fuller.
This is one of the few market-setting deals we’ve seen this offseason, but to this point, Simmons is the type of player worth putting that type of investment in. Simmons won’t turn 28 years old until November and he played 3.221 of the possible 3,221 defensive snaps for the Broncos over the past three seasons.