Broncos release star safety Justin Simmons after 8 seasons

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

Simmons, a third-round pick of the Broncos in the 2016 draft, is the team's longest-tenured player. Simmons, one of the most active players in the community during his tenure, has been the public face of the locker room through good times and bad during the current eight-year playoff drought.

“Justin Simmons' impact as a Denver Bronco goes beyond his exceptional play in eight seasons with our organization,” the Broncos said in a statement. “In addition to becoming an All-Pro and team captain, Justin was our perennial Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Justin has inspired countless youth and provided unwavering support to the community. The hundreds of hours he spent at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club, Justin's leadership, dependability and versatility will be part of the legacy with the Broncos. Justin will always be a Bronco and we thank him for the great way he represented our organization.”

The Broncos, who announced Monday they would release quarterback Russell Wilson, are on the salary cap. Wilson's release would put $85 million in dead money on the Broncos' books over the next two seasons.

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

The Broncos reached $16 million over the $255.4 million salary cap for the week. By league rules, they must be with their first 51 salary cap hits by the time free agency officially opens next week.

Simmons was in the team's first draft class to finish the 2015 season after winning Super Bowl 50, 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.

Simmons explained that “I just want to win” was what he believed the team's plan to be going forward at the end of last season. “That's my mindset, I want to win, I want to help us do it, I want to see us do it, and that's what I think about every day when I wake up to come here.

Simmons did not appear in a playoff game in 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 Gratischer, as well as cornerback Lewis Wright, linebacker Tom Jackson and linebacker Carl Mecklenburg. Only one of those defensive players — Broncos Ring of Famer and linebacker 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.

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

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 over three seasons — 3,328 consecutive defensive snaps — playing defense regularly.

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