ENGLEWOOD |The Denver Broncos placed the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons on Friday and also picked up the 2020 contract options on star pass rusher Von Miller, linebacker Todd Davis and kicker Brandon McManus.
The tag on Simmons is worth $11.545 million, although chances are good the fifth-year safety will sign a long-term deal averaging more than $14 million a season before the July 15 deadline.
“We remain focused on reaching a long-term contract agreement with Justin, and he’s a big priority for us,” general manager John Elway said. “This is a placeholder in that process and our goal is the same — to make sure that Justin is a Bronco for a long time.”
All four times Elway has used the franchise tag the sides reached a deal on a long-term extension: Matt Prater (2012), Ryan Clady (2013), Demaryius Thomas (2015) and Miller (2016).
Simmons proved particularly adept at new head coach Vic Fangio’s complex defense last season, recording four interceptions to go with 15 pass breakups, both of which were career bests and led to his selection as a second-team All-Pro safety.
Because other suitors would have to pony up two first-round picks and offer Simmons a contract the Broncos couldn’t match, the franchise tag essentially keeps him off the open market when free agency begins next week.
Simmons was a third-round pick out of Boston College in 2016 and has played every snap each of the last two seasons.
Miller, Davis and McManus are among a handful of Broncos remaining from the Super Bowl 50-winning season four years ago.
Two others, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., and defensive end Derek Wolfe, are set to test free agency Wednesday. Harris rejected a three-year, $36 million offer from Denver last season and Wolfe is coming off an elbow injury that might limit his appeal on the open market.
Both have said they’d like to stay in Denver, but Harris’ chances of leaving seemed to increase with the Broncos’ recent acquisition of cornerback A.J. Bouye from Jacksonville.
Miller’s option on his $17.5 million salary for next season was worth $6 million. Elway also picked up the $1 million option on McManus’s $3 million salary for next season and the $500,000 option on Davis’ $5 million salary in 2020.
The Broncos also recently signed long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer of Northern Colorado, meaning it’s likely incumbent Casey Kreiter, a Pro Bowler in 2018, will leave via free agency.
The Broncos declined the option on oft-injured guard Ronald Leary.