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Broncos cutting star S Simmons after 8 seasons

broncos-cutting-star-s-simmons-after-8-seasons
Broncos cutting star S Simmons after 8 seasons

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  • Jeff Legwold, ESPN Senior WriterMar 7, 2024, 09:57 AM ET

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      Jeff Legwold is a senior writer who covers the Denver Broncos and the NFL at ESPN. Jeff has covered the Broncos for more than 20 years, joining ESPN in 2013. He also assists with NFL draft coverage, including his annual top 100 prospects. Jeff has been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors since 1999. He has attended every scouting combine since 1987.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos continued their extensive foundational offseason makeover Thursday, as they informed safety Justin Simmons he will be released.

Simmons, who was the Broncos’ third-round pick in the 2016 draft, was the team’s longest-tenured player. And Simmons, who was also one of the most active players in the community in his tenure, was often the public face of the locker room, in good times and bad, during the current eight-year playoff drought.

“Justin Simmons’ impact as a Denver Bronco extends far beyond his exceptional play during eight seasons with our organization,” the Broncos said in a statement. “In addition to growing into an All-Pro and team captain, Justin became our perennial Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year devoted to uplifting others and using his influence for positive change. 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, and we thank him for the outstanding manner in which he represented our organization on and off the field.”

The Broncos, who announced Monday they will release quarterback Russell Wilson, are in a salary cap bind. Wilson’s release will put a record $85 million dead money charge on the Broncos’ books over the next two seasons.

Simmons, 30, was scheduled to have the fourth-highest salary cap charge for the 2024 season — $18.25 million. His release would add another $3.75 million in dead money for the Broncos but will save the team $14.5 million against the salary cap overall.

The Broncos entered the week about $16 million over the $255.4 million salary cap. By league rules, they have to be under the cap with their top 51 salary cap charges by the time free agency officially opens next week.

Simmons was in the team’s first draft class after the Super Bowl 50 victory to close out the 2015 season, which also is the Broncos’ most recent postseason game. Sean Payton was the fifth head coach Simmons played for, and Vance Joseph was his fifth defensive coordinator this past season.

“I just want to win” is how Simmons explained what he hoped the team’s plan was moving forward near the end of this past season. “That’s my frame of mind, I just want to win, I want to help us do that, I want to see us do that, and that’s what I think about every day when I get up to come here.”

Simmons appeared in no playoff games in his 118 games with the team.

Just 34 defensive players have topped 100 games for the Broncos, a decorated group that includes Hall of Famers cornerback Champ Bailey, safety Steve Atwater and linebacker Randy Gradishar, as well as cornerback Louis Wright, linebacker Tom Jackson and linebacker Karl Mecklenburg. Only one of those defensive players — Broncos Ring of Famer and defensive lineman Paul Smith — has played in fewer than five playoff games for the team. Smith played in three postseason games in his 11 seasons with Denver, all in the Broncos’ 1977 run to the Super Bowl.

Since entering the league in 2016, Simmons’ 30 interceptions are more than any other player’s.

Simmons is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, including this past season, a second-team All Pro selection four times, including last season, and once went more than three seasons — 3,328 consecutive defensive snaps in all — without missing a defensive play.

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