The Broncos slapped the franchise tag on the safety on Friday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The team later confirmed the news and asserted a long-term pact with Simmons is still a priority.
"We remain focused on reaching a long-term contract agreement with Justin, and he's a big priority for us," Broncos general manager John Elway said in a statement Friday. "This is a placeholder in that process and our goal is the same -- to make sure that Justin is a Bronco for a long time."
Denver has until July 15 to work out a long-term deal with Simmons.
The Broncos also exercised the 2020 team options for linebacker Von Miller, kicker Brandon McManus and linebacker Todd Davis. Miller has two years remaining on his deal, while McManus and Davis are entering their final seasons under contract. NFL Network's James Palmer reported that none of the exercised options came as a surprise.
Simmons will earn roughly $12.7 million on the tag, according to Over The Cap, a significant pay raise from his $2 million base salary in 2019.
The move was expected on both Denver's and Simmons' part. The 26-year-old safety, listed as No. 7 on NFL.com's Top 101 Free Agents list, hasn't missed a start over the past two seasons and is coming off a career year.
A second-team All-Pro in 2019, Simmons logged a career-high four interceptions and 15 passes defensed for Denver in its first season under head coach Vic Fangio.
It's up to Simmons and Elway now to reach an agreement that esablishes that union deep into the next decade.