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'He's the type of guy we want to extend': GM George Paton details discussions with Justin Simmons as free agency approaches

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the deadline to use the franchise tag nears, General Manager George Paton said the Broncos have had productive conversations with safety Justin Simmons' agent and that a long-term deal remains a priority.

"Justin's one of our core guys, and our goal since I got here [has been] to sign him to a long-term deal," Paton said Thursday. "We've had good discussions with his agent. I don't know if we'll get a deal done or not, but that's our goal. He's the type of guy we want to extend."

Simmons, who made the first Pro Bowl of his career in 2020, would become an unrestricted free agent on March 17 if the Broncos do not either place the franchise tag on him by March 9 or finalize a new deal by the start of free agency.

If the Broncos place the franchise tag on Simmons, it does not preclude the two sides from reaching a long-term deal. Under that scenario, the Broncos and Simmons would have until July 15 to continue to negotiate a long-term deal. If they do not reach a long-term deal by that deadline, Simmons would again have to play on the one-year franchise tag.

Simmons played the 2020 season on the tag and recorded a career-high five interceptions.


Simmons isn't the only impending free agent on the Broncos' roster.

Defensive end Shelby Harris is also poised to hit the market, and Paton said Harris is "a priority in free agency" for the Broncos.

"We'd love to have Shelby back," Paton said. "He's a really good football player, he's a good person. Vic's spoken with him, I spoke with him early. He's a guy we definitely want back."

Paton said the Broncos have been in contact with Harris' agent.


Denver also has a slew of restricted free agents with which to negotiate, including running back Phillip Lindsay, wide receiver Tim Patrick and linebacker Alexander Johnson.

"We're still working through [options regarding] Phillip," Paton said about Lindsay. "Phillip's a good player, very passionate. Obviously [he] had some injuries last year, but he's a good player, he brings energy, he brings juice."

Paton said the team plans to tender all three of those players in hopes of keeping them, but he did not disclose the level at which they would be tendered. Teams can tender restricted free agents at a first-, second- or original-round level. Other teams are then able to try to sign those players. If Denver chooses to match that hypothetical offer, the Broncos would keep the player in question. If the Broncos pass on matching, though, they would receive the draft pick associated with the tender placed on the player. Because the three above players are all undrafted, the Broncos would not receive compensation if they placed orginal-round tenders on the players and then chose not to match an offer sheet.


The Broncos must decide whether to exercise Bradley Chubb's fifth-year option by May 3, but Paton said those discussions will occur after the draft.

"It's only March," Paton said. "We'll get into that. We're in draft meetings now. We just finished free-agent meetings. We've got free agency coming up in a week or so and then we've got the draft. We'll have those discussions after the draft, but Bradley, he's a kid obviously [we] want to be here long term."

If the team picks up Chubb's option, his salary would be fully guaranteed through 2022. Under the new CBA, his fifth-year salary would be equivalent to the 2021 transition tag for outside linebackers.

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