FILE In this Nov. 22, 2020, file photo, Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) runs off the field after defeating the Miami Dolphins in an an NFL football game in Denver. Simmons is the first player franchise tagged in 2021. NFL teams have until Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at 4 p.m. ET to use their franchise tag to prevent a pending free agent from hitting the open market. (AP Photo/Justin Edmonds, File)

ENGLEWOOD | Justin Simmons became the highest-paid safety in the NFL Friday when he agreed to a four-year, $61 million contract with the Denver Broncos, who had franchised him for a second consecutive season.

The deal that agent Todd France negotiated with general manager George Paton includes $35 million in guarantees.

The $15.25 million-per-year average also makes Simmons the first safety to break the $15 million mark. Last year, Arizona signed Budda Baker to a four-year deal that averaged $14.75 million per season.

Although Simmons was the first player franchised tagged this offseason, Paton made it clear the $13.729 million tag was just a placeholder to keep him off the open market while they worked out a long-term contract.

A third-round pick out of Boston College in 2016, Simmons has had nearly 300 tackles and a dozen interceptions in the past three years, during which time he hasn’t missed a single snap.

He had a career-best five interceptions last season when he earned his first Pro Bowl berth a year after he was selected as an All-Pro for the first time.

Simmons has been one of the most active players in the community on a team that’s garnered a reputation for its civic involvement, and last summer Simmons emerged as one of the team’s leading voices on social justice issues.

He’s been the Broncos’ Walter Peyton Man of the Year nominee twice and has won the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award in three of the four seasons he’s been a starter.