Justin Simmons knew from the moment he first spoke to new Broncos General Manager George Paton that he wasn't going anywhere.
The All-Pro safety was staying in Denver and Paton did everything he needed to make that happen, extending Simmons to a four-year, $61 million contract that makes him the highest paid safety in NFL history.
"We had a conversation and it was one where I left the phone and I was like, ‘This is definitely going to happen,'" Simmons said during a news conference Monday. "We didn’t talk numbers or anything like that. He just said, ‘I’m happy to be here. If you ever need me, call me.’ I just left that conversation thinking, ‘I can’t wait. Whatever it’s going to take, I’m going to be here.’ I’m just thankful it’s happening.
"You want to just be where you're wanted. Obviously I'm wanted here, and I wanted to be here."
Paton said Monday the extension was essentially a no-brainer and praised Simmons' play on the field and his leadership off it.
"I believe he's a top safety in the NFL, but I believe it's everything else he brings to the table within the locker room, out in the community," Paton said. "It's hard to find a really good football player, but it's really hard to find someone that's out in the community like Justin and who's a leader in the locker room. That's why it was a priority since the day I arrived to get Justin locked up."
Simmons played like one of the best safeties in the league the last two seasons, earning an All-Pro nomination in 2019 with 93 tackles, 15 pass breakups and four interceptions, while being voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2020 with 96 tackles, nine pass breakups and five interceptions. He's also played every defensive snap — 3,211 straight — over three seasons for the Broncos.
In many ways, Simmons has become the Broncos' top defensive playmaker the last several years.
"I think everybody knows about his good play on the field. That speaks for itself," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "But he does quarterback our secondary and plays a major role in our defense from an on field leadership job that he does for us and does very well. He's here on a daily basis and plays every game. Those are sometimes things you take for granted, we as coaches do not."
With the additions of cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, and with Bryce Callahan on thr roster, Denver's secondary has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL.
Leading the way will be Simmons, who hopes to be one of the cornerstones in an improving franchise.
"Having the individual accolades is great, but this is a team effort, a team game," Simmons said. "Over the past five years being here, being apart of a couple losing seasons, it's about time to be on the opposite side of that and start winning some football games. I think for me the challenge moving forward, obviously I think there's a lot of things I can do to get better, echoing what coach Vic said, I don't even think I've played, personally, my best ball.
"But what I'm really looking forward to is finding a way for the team's success... So when it comes to it, we're winning those close games instead of just being close and I think that's where we've been the last couple years."