Broncos free agency: 5 safeties to target if Kareem Jackson is not back

Denver Broncos 2021 free agency: John Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos 2021 free agency: John Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Anthony Harris, Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos 2021 free agency: Anthony Harris. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Denver Broncos should be plenty active in the 2021 free agent signing period. Of course, the most pressing matters are in-house for the Broncos with franchise player Justin Simmons slated to hit free agency if the team doesn’t give him a contract extension or hit him with the tag for a second consecutive year.

The hope is obviously to get a long-term deal done with Simmons, and as far as the 2021 season is concerned, everyone should be expecting Simmons back in no. 31 in orange and blue. The Broncos will franchise tag him at the very least.

What about the future of veteran Kareem Jackson? The 2019 free agent pickup has been very good for the Broncos transitioning to the safety position. He provides some big hits from the secondary and has worked well in Vic Fangio’s defense.

With a cap hit of slightly more than $12.88 million in 2021, his age 33 season, there is a chance the Broncos could move on from Jackson. Not that it’s their first choice, but they could easily justify it.

Jackson has just one year left on his deal, will be 33 this season, and the crop of safeties in the 2021 free agency period and 2021 NFL Draft is really good.

The Broncos could look to get younger at the safety position even if they don’t get a lot cheaper. They could move on from Jackson’s 2021 cap number, eat roughly $2.88 million in dead money, and sign someone younger to a longer deal to pair with Justin Simmons on the back end of the Fangio defense.

Which players are available that might entice them to do that?

Let’s take a look.

1. Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings (age: 29, 30 in October)

Although I’ve written before about free agents with connections that could sign in Denver, the idea of Harris and the Broncos isn’t really something I’ve done a whole lot of thinking about until now.

It will be very interesting to see which former Vikings players George Paton brings into Denver in his first year as GM of the team, if any at all. Harris would fit the bill of a high-profile free agent following Paton from Minneapolis to the Mile High City.

Just like Justin Simmons in 2020, Harris received the franchise tag from the Vikings. He picked off a career-high six passes in 2019 and broke up 11 others, also a career-high

.In 2020, he set a career mark with 104 total tackles, but after picking off a total of 9 passes from 2018-19, he had none in 2020. Who knows how the Vikings (and George Paton) will view that dropoff statistically, but Harris is a smart, veteran player who can be extremely effective whether he’s in the box or playing in a two-high safety look.

The Vikings have utilized that a lot in the past couple of years, and that’s part of Fangio’s baseline defensive philosophy.

At the age of 29 going on 30, the Broncos could get three years younger at the position and get a potentially more versatile player on the back end if they were to move on from Jackson and pay Anthony Harris.