Examining Possible Contract Extensions for Justin Simmons and Will Parks

The Broncos will have a number of pending unrestricted free agents for the 2020 offseason. Thus, while Broncos news is light, this is a good time of year to conduct a series on what it could take to proactively reduce that number by extending players that the team may like to keep in Denver long term.

This series will begin with Justin Simmons and Will Parks. Both play the same position, both have opportunities to start at that position, and, with both being acquired in the 2016 NFL Draft, both are entering the final years of their rookie contracts.

Establishing a range for the safety market

As it stands now, Simmons has clearly established more capital in the NFL than Parks, especially given his perfect 100% snap count last season. But Parks is hardly a slouch: he has logged over 50% of the snaps over the last two seasons, with the real chance of him increasing those snaps, especially if Kareem Jackson plays more of a cornerback role instead of safety.

Given what they have accomplished as of now, a good comparison for Simmons would be Adrian Amos, who flourished in Chicago under Vic Fangio and got a lucrative free agent deal with rival Green Bay. Simmons, of course, has that same opportunity to benefit from Fangio’s tutelage in Denver in 2019.

Parks, meanwhile, has profiled as a high level backup that has proven good value in that role. What Parks has accomplished thus far reminds me much of Duron Harmon on the New England Patriots. He has regularly played behind the likes of Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, yet has found a solid role of value with the team on a deal commensurate with that contribution.

The contracts of Amos and Harmon provide a nice range in which extensions for Simmons and/or Parks before the regular season begins could fall within. Given their contributions as of now, it’s fair to say that Simmons has a better chance of getting a contract similar to Amos, while Parks is more aligned with Harmon’s contract.

The high end contract (assumed here for Justin Simmons)

YearBase SalaryProrated BonusOption BonusCap NumberDead MoneyCap Savings

This is a four year, $37 million extension that fully guarantees Simmons $20 million in new money via $10 million in signing bonus money, and $10 million more in guaranteed 2020 and 2021 base salaries. $1 million of Simmons’s current 2019 salary is also prorated

2022 and 2023 both contain $2 million option bonuses to be exercised before those respective league years; in addition to typical compensatory pick formula manipulation (in case that loophole survives the next CBA), the option bonuses reduce the amount of 2022 dead money should the Broncos wish to part ways with Simmons then, while still keeping potential 2023 dead money reasonable.

By APY, this contract at $9.25 million bests Amos’s $9 million, and is equidistant between Amos and the next highest safety contract, Devin McCourty at $9.5 million. Full guarantees of $20 million are far superior to Amos, even when Amos’s $4 million roster bonus is counted as likely to be triggered to come to $16 million. and also surpasses the likes of Tony Jefferson while falling below McCourty’s $22 million. Simmons also gets a firm commitment from the Broncos through 2021, whereas with Amos it’s feasible that the Packers could part ways with him after only one season if things go very wrong.

Cash flow is where this contract lags behind Amos and McCourty. While it is comparable to Amos in the first two years, Amos comes out better after three years, and the running totals lag considerably behind McCourty throughout the duration of the contract.

The low end contract (assumed here for Will Parks)

YearBase SalaryProrated BonusOption BonusCap NumberDead MoneyCap Savings

This is a three year, $14.7 million extension with $7 million guaranteed that’s contained inside a $4 million signing bonus and a 2020 guaranteed base salary of $3 million. This contract is structured similar to the one above: $1 million in current money is prorated to cause only minimal increase to Parks’s 2019 cap number, and option years are on the final two years of the contract, each of these at $1 million.

This contract bests Harmon in many relevant metrics, as noted in parentheticals: $4.9 million in APY ($4.25 million), $7 million fully guaranteed ($6.5 million), and $10.5 million in two year cash flow ($9.5 million). Only in the first year does Harmon barely come out ahead in cash flow, and even then it’s only by $250,000.

What’s the proper course of action for Simmons and Parks?

On the one hand, there may be incentive for Simmons and Parks to play out the final years of their rookie deals. Improving their play over their first three years could raise their markets. For Simmons, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a stellar 2019 season could push his APY into the eight figure range. For Parks, he might yearn, and be capable of proving to other teams, that he can be an unquestionable starter at safety. It also helps both that the safety supply in unrestricted free agency next year could be limited, with Kevin Byard and Vonn Bell being the only clear cut young high end talents with expiring contracts at the same time.

On the other hand, typical risks and other considerations also apply. Injury could strike either player and derail their full potential of unrestricted free agency. Even without injury, adverse perception of their play, either fair or unfair, could lower their values. And if Simmons or Parks enjoys being in Denver and are willing to place a higher priority on that location, they could be more amiable to getting a deal done sooner rather than later if the Broncos are willing to make offers.