Denver Broncos: Justin Simmons a trade candidate at deadline?

Aug 25, 2020; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) during training camp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2020; Englewood, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) during training camp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Justin Simmons a 2020 trade deadline candidate for the Denver Broncos?

The NFL trade deadline is only three weeks away, and if the Denver Broncos are not in playoff contention, it makes sense that the talking heads would start sifting through some of the team’s most logical trade candidates to be sent to contending teams.

The business side of the NFL is always tough, especially for fans. Fans become attached to certain players, and when guys get traded away, it’s hard to say goodbye a lot of times.

In the past couple of seasons, the Broncos have said some difficult goodbyes to the likes of Demaryius Thomas (2018) and Emmanuel Sanders (2019). Would they say goodbye to Justin Simmons in 2020?

The 2019 second-team All-Pro selection has blossomed into one of the best defensive backs in the NFL over the past four years, and was given the franchise tag by the Broncos in the 2020 offseason.

Simmons, the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2019, is a class act off the field and a playmaker on it. He has at least one interception every year of his four-plus seasons in the NFL so far, and broke up a career-high 15 passes in 2019.

There is no doubt that teams would love to have Simmons on their roster, and ESPN suggested specifically that the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys come together on a deal for Simmons if the Broncos’ record doesn’t improve by the deadline.

The specific details of ESPN’s trade idea are two draft picks — a 2021 2nd-round pick and 2022 4th-round pick — for Simmons.

The 2021 2nd-round pick alone is an enticing selection considering the Cowboys are currently 2-3 and just lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott for the remainder of the 2020 season with a bad ankle injury, and they have been more than willing to part with valuable draft capital in the past.

As enticing as a 2nd-round pick would be for the Denver Broncos, is that worth not having Justin Simmons for the long-term?

Even as out of the norm as it was for John Elway to tag Simmons and fail to reach a contract extension with him, I think it would take a first-round pick for Simmons to get him out of Denver, and even then, you have to wonder how long the Broncos would ponder it.

If the team is 1-5 by the time the trade deadline rolls around, the idea of acquiring a second 1st-round pick in 2021 would be hard to pass on, even if it means creating a huge need at the safety position going forward and letting go of a franchise cornerstone type of player.

Although the Broncos have been willing to trade big-name players in recent years, Simmons’ situation is different. Neither Demaryius Thomas nor Emmanuel Sanders had futures with the team beyond the seasons they were dealt, and it took the Broncos having a horrible record to get them out of town.

John Elway doesn’t like to trade good players, and it’s really hard to believe he would trade a player like Simmons who makes sense to keep over the long-term.

If the Broncos internally have decided that there’s no chance Simmons is sticking around with an extension, it would be both bizarre and the only legitimate reason to trade him. But since Simmons is a young player and one of the best at his position in the NFL, trading him away — even for a nice return — doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Kareem Jackson has just one year on his contract beyond this season, and the Broncos don’t have guys behind Simmons and Jackson who are legitimate candidates to take over if one leaves.

In exchange for Thomas and Sanders, the Broncos were able to get much higher draft compensation than either player leaving in free agency the following offseason, and both players were above the age of 30 with guys behind them to reasonably assume had the capacity take over.

Simmons doesn’t fit the same profile, even though his contract expires after this season and the Broncos can’t negotiate with him right now.

The Broncos aren’t likely to get a Jamal Adams-type offer for Simmons, and it’s likely it would take at least a first-round pick to pry him away from John Elway.

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The price for Simmons and the price teams are willing to pay mean he’s highly unlikely to be traded at the 2020 deadline, no matter what the Broncos’ record looks like.