May 27, 2024

Denver Broncos releasing star safety Justin Simmons in a cost-saving move

FILE - Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons is seen during warmups before an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, in Detroit. The Denver Broncos are releasing safety Justin Simmons in the fallout from the Russell Wilson separation, a person familiar with the move told The Associated Press on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)

By ARNIE STAPLETON AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Justin Simmons became one of the top free agents on the market Thursday when the Denver Broncos released their star safety in a cost-cutting move.
Simmons is the first veteran to pay the price for the enormous dead cap charges the Broncos are facing when they release quarterback Russell Wilson next week.
A second-team All-Pro in four of his last five seasons, Simmons intercepted multiple passes in each of his eight years in Denver and his 30 picks lead all NFL players since his rookie season in 2016, when the Broncos selected him in the third round out of Boston College.
Simmons was set to earn $14.5 million this upcoming season, the final year of the four-year, $61 million deal he signed in 2021.
All high-earning veterans on the Broncos roster are vulnerable to release because the team is facing a record $85 million in dead cap charges in the fallout from Wilson’s impending departure.
The team hasn’t decided whether to absorb $35.4 million or $53 million of Wilson’s dead-cap hit in 2024, but either way they’ve got a long way to go to get under the salary cap, and Simmons’ release is just the beginning of a painful roster purge this offseason.
Others who could follow Simmons out of Denver include left tackle Garett Bolles, linebacker Josey Jewell and receivers Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton.
Simmons teamed with cornerback Patrick Surtain II the last three years to form one of the NFL’s most spectacular secondaries even as the Broncos extended their playoff drought to eight seasons and their string of losing campaigns to seven.
Simmons was also the Broncos’ most active player in charitable appearances and was a fan favorite on a team that’s had little to cheer for since winning Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season.
In a series of posts on the social media site X, the Broncos thanked Simmons for his work both on and off the field, saying his “impact as a Bronco extends far beyond his exceptional play during eight seasons with our organization.”
“In addition to growing into an All-Pro and team captain, Justin became our perennial NFL Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year devoted to uplifting others and using his influence for positive change,” the team said. “Whether it was in Denver or his hometown of Stuart, Florida, Justin inspired and mentored countless youth while providing unwavering support to the community. The hundreds of hours he spent at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club will be as much a part of Justin’s legacy with the Broncos as his leadership, dependability and many interceptions.
“Justin will always be a Bronco.”
In their hearts, at least.