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Tracking the latest free-agency rumors for Justin Simmons

Justin Simmons has developed into one of the NFL’s best safeties, which explains the Broncos’ interest in keeping him in Denver.

 Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons (31) celebrates his interception in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High.  Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The thick of the NFL offseason has already arrived which means free agency will soon begin in earnest. Teams cannot contact unrestricted free agents until March 15, exactly two days before the start of the 2021 league year. However, news regarding the top players will circulate before the free agency officially kicks off, and this year’s market could feature big-name talents like Dak Prescott, Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, and Kenny Golladay. The franchise tag will likely remove one or more from the open market, but more will reach free agency when the legal-tampering period opens.

2020 in review

Playing under the franchise tag in 2020, safety Justin Simmons produced another quality season. Simmons led the Denver Broncos with five interceptions while also providing stout run defense when called upon. With Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, and the rest of the “No Fly Zone” secondary gone from Denver by the time the 2020 regular season began, Simmons took over as the de facto leader of the unit.

Possible destinations

If Simmons reaches free agency, he should have no shortage of suitors. The Miami Dolphins have already shown a willingness to spend on quality defensive backs and could finalize the secondary with a safety of Simmons’ caliber. Additionally, the Cleveland Browns could use a more permanent solution at safety and have the cap space to make a competitive offer.

Do the Broncos want to keep him?

According to NFL Network’s James Palmer, the Broncos plan to apply the franchise tag to Simmons during the upcoming window. The tag doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the veteran defensive back returns for next season, it would effectively limit his market and, given the cost, push both sides to work on a long-term commitment with a lower 2021 salary-cap impact.

Fantasy implications

Given Simmons’ penchant for takeaways — nine interceptions and a fumble recovery over the past two seasons — bringing him back to Denver appears critical to head coach Vic Fangio’s efforts to build the defense. Keeping the former second-team All-Pro safety would boost the unit’s fantasy stock considerably so long as it doesn’t cause significant departures elsewhere.

Rumored interest

Despite the prospect of the Broncos applying the franchise tag to Simmons, ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe believes the Dolphins could have interest in the veteran safety.