This Just-in… Justin Simmons is Elite
By: Eric Sojash
In a league filled with superstar players, limelight chasers, and TikTok dancers it is inevitable for even some of the great players to get overlooked. I present to you Denver Broncos Pro Bowl Safety Justin Simmons. A player whose productivity has increased every year since entering the NFL in 2016 yet receives very little notoriety.
Fresh off another stellar season in which he played every defensive snap posting 96 tackles and five interceptions, Simmons has proven to be a top-tier defensive player and should be getting much more attention for his contributions on and off the field. The 27-year-old two-time nominee for the ‘Walter Payton Man Of the year Award’, is coming off a season in which he played under the franchise tag earning him $11.4M and is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of Boston College, Simmons has now played himself into the elite company and will be compensated as such (Simmons next contract is rumored to be around $82.5M total with an annual of $16.5M/year and $45M guaranteed). The Denver Broncos are likely to bring Justin back either via a new contract or the franchise tag, however, if they are not able to retain his services and Justin hits the open market, here are a few teams that should absolutely jump at the opportunity to sign him.
- Cleveland Browns – The Cleveland Browns are coming off their first playoff birth in 18 years, their first playoff victory since 1995, and their first road playoff victory since 1969. It is safe to say, this was a successful season and with a projected $21M in cap space, the Browns can afford to make a splash signing in free agency.
Of all the teams with a positional need, cap space, and who looks ready to take that next step, I keep coming back to the Cleveland Browns as the team that just makes the most sense to acquire a player of Simmons caliber. They have a couple stud defenders in place lead by All-Pro edge rusher Myles Garrett and emerging star defensive back Denzel Ward. Adding safety Justin Simmons to sure up the back end just makes a lot of sense for a team looking to change its history.
- Dallas Cowboys – The Dallas Cowboys were entering the 2020 season with high expectations and if not for a Dak Prescott season-ending injury, they may have met those expectations on the offensive side of the ball.
The defensive side, on the other hand, was a major let down, to say the least. Setting all the wrong records throughout the first 6 weeks, the Dallas defense had a stretch in which their opponents scored 34 points or more in five consecutive weeks marking the first time this has occurred since their inaugural season in 1960.
The second half of the season for the Cowboys showed improvements from the defense lead by the play of edge rushers Aldon Smith and Demarcus Lawrence who combined for 11.5 sacks this season. Couple that with the combination of Jaylon Smith (Lead team with 154 Tackles) and often injured Leighton Vander Esch (60 Tackles) at the Linebacker position and the Cowboys have a very solid front to build around. Justin would fit in seamlessly with this unit and I believe he could take them to the next level.
- Minnesota Vikings – This is personally one of my preferred landing spots for Mr. Simmons however navigating the cap might be an issue with the Minnesota Vikings currently projected to be $8M over the cap. If Minnesota can get the numbers crunched, they should consider adding another special Justin to their roster.
After a disappointing season in which they finished 29th in points allowed (29.7 PPG) and 27th in yards allowed (393 YPG), the Vikings young and inexperienced secondary struggled throughout. With current starting safety Anthony Harris set to be a free agent, they will need a replacement and likely an upgrade to execute coach Zimmer’s defense effectively.
This past season saw the Viking utilize both safeties on 95 percent of Minnesota’s defensive snaps. With that type of usage, the Vikes should be looking at seriously bringing in Justin Simmons and pairing him with All-Pro Safety Harrison Smith to form a deadly tandem.
- Tennessee Titans – The Tennessee Titans are clearly a team on the rise with Superbowl aspirations in the coming years. As an organization year after year, they’ve shown improvement and seem to be building towards a championship. Coach Mike Vrabel has established a tough-nosed, power run football team lead by the Most Valuable non QB, my choice for MVP Derrick Henry.
While the offensive side has established itself, the defense seems to be trending downwards and has declined over the past couple of seasons. From the lack of pass rush to the poor coverage in the secondary, the titans can use an upgrade at all levels. This past season the Titans attempted to make a splash signing by bringing in a former first overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney as they hoped he was the missing piece to a deep playoff run.
The move, though at the time seemed fitting, did not translate into production on the field leaving the Titans in the same position they found themselves a year ago. This time around Tennessee may take a different approach and sure up the secondary by adding Justin Simmons to a core featuring Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson. If they do, Titan fans just might find themselves watching football in late January.