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The Broncos have some important decisions to make regarding the safety position in 2021

Kareem Jackson is on the final year of his contract. Should the Denver Broncos let him play it out or move on to free up cap space?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We started with a cornerbacks review yesterday, so it made logical sense to target safety next in this series of position group reviews. The secondary was the most maligned group all season long in regards to injuries and setbacks, but the two constants were Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson who both started and played every game in 2020.

In that regard, do the Denver Broncos even need to improve the position in 2021? Joe Rowles, Scotty Payne, and myself set about to answer that question in a discussion that I’ve shared below.

As I noted yesterday, this is a review of the position group only and in a complete vacuum. At the end of all this series of posts, we’ll take a look at the whole picture and analyze what new Broncos General Manager, George Paton, could do to field a competitive team this season and beyond.

Broncos safety position group

Player Position Height Weight Age Contract Status
Player Position Height Weight Age Contract Status
Jackson, Kareem S 5' 11" 196 32 Signed through 2021
Simmons, Justin S 6' 02" 202 27 UFA
Cooper, Chris S 5' 11" 200 26 Signed through 2022
Locke, P.J. S 5' 10" 207 23 Signed through 2021
Marshall, Trey S 6' 00" 210 24 ERFA
Parks, Will S 6' 00" 211 26 UFA

Joe: If the Broncos don’t find a way to retain Justin Simmons George Paton already failed as a general manager. It’s that simple.

Tim: I think they’ll end up finding a way to extend Simmons. What about Kareem Jackson? Should the Broncos cut him loose or let him play out his final year? The situation behind Jackson and Simmons is a bit iffy. I feel like they won’t be able to address ALL of their depth issues in one free agency or one draft class. It might make sense to keep Jackson around despite the potential for a decline in play due to age there.

Joe: Comes down to QB again. If the Broncos are just waiting around to see what happens this year it makes sense to get younger. Kareem Jackson may have some trade value to a contender. Moving him would cost the Broncos $2,882,353 and free up $10 million. Barring that I believe they should retain him.

Scotty: Simmons will be back, so I’m not going to pile on with the what if drama shenanigans that has already been covered.

I’d let Kareem Jackson go. Free up $10M and use that towards a younger safety or fill that position via the draft. Fangio and Donatell have a good history of developing safeties so I’d let them pick out another and work their magic.

If Will Parks can come back at a reasonable price, he’s a decent third safety that provides versatility as well.

Joe: Personally if the Broncos can get even a late Day 3 pick for Jackson I’d prefer it to a clean release.

The nice thing is Parks has been in the Fangio defense for two years, will be cheap, and offers depth at both safety and nickel. Trey Marshall also showed hints that he could be a passable starter in the short term.

Scotty: Harrison Smith has no guaranteed money and the Vikings need to free up cap space. Just throwing that out there.

Joe: I really like Harrison Smith but have a similar problem with signing him as I do keeping Jackson. If the Broncos aren’t doing more than testing the waters with Lock this year it makes more sense to think long term. Smith is going to be 32 in February.

The draft has some prospects I’m intrigued with at the safety position. Both the TCU guys Moehrig and Washington could make sense. Andre Cisco may not be physical enough for Fangio, but he’s the kind of ball hawk to potentially thrive as a traditional free safety in a Cover 3-centric scheme.

Scotty: I like Cisco! Not often that I can hype a Syracuse football prospect so when I can, I shall. I’m okay with his lack of physicality because that part of the game has really been taken away from safeties in today’s NFL. As you said, he’s a ballhawk whom I think could thrive under Fangio.

Another prospect I like is Hamsah Nasirildeen. With Travis Kelce and Darren Waller in the division, you need someone who can potentially match up against them and I think he has that potential. If there was a traditional combine, he would have been a riser during that week.

Finally, if we’re looking for a safety with some pop, USC’s Talanoa Hufanga is a fun one. I like this safety class as a whole. It lacks star power but I think you can find a starter on Day 2 within this group.

What I would do

Everything I looked at has the Broncos extending Justin Simmons, so in my mind he is a Denver Bronco in 2021 and beyond.

As for the rest, I disagree with both Scotty and Joe here on Kareem Jackson. I wouldn’t do anything with him and let him play out his contract. However, what I would do is look for a Day 2 safety that could develop into a starter to replace Jackson after the 2021 season.

It’s not easy to find a starter right away unless you go through free agency and I just don’t see the point of replacing a free agent signee like Jackson with another expensive veteran safety. George Paton talks a lot about building up and developing players through the draft and with Jackson on the final year of his contract, this is a perfect opportunity for Denver to draft a guy to develop this season into a starting role in 2022. Of course, that would require Paton hit on his safety pick or picks in April.

What do you think the Broncos should do with their safety situation? Let us know in the comments section below.