Justin Simmons is about as perfect a football player the Broncos can hope for.

And, if they want him around for the long-haul, pen needs to meet paper sooner rather than later.

But the Denver Broncos, for one reason or another, don’t seem worried about the possibility of losing one of their most dominant, home-grown talents; he remains an unrestricted free agent as this lost season winds down.

Ever since being picked in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Simmons has been a staple on defense for the Broncos. As a rookie, the safety played sparingly as a backup but was still able to record a sack and two interceptions along with 19 tackles. In 2017, Simmons was elevated to starter and his game continued to grow, and even though he struggled a bit in coverage in 2018, the Broncos safety has broken out as a rising superstar this season.

In 2019, Simmons sured up those coverage issues as he’s currently the second-best coverage safety in the NFL per Pro Football Focus (91.3 coverage grade). Simmons has picked off a team-high three passes this season, he’s broken up a career-high 10 passes and allowed an opposing passer rating of a mere 27.4. On top of that, opposing receiver have caught a mere 47.5 percent of passes thrown against him, which is best among the top-25 graded safeties on PFF.

Overall, he’s not just a rising star on the Broncos, but in the NFL; Simmons is the league’s second-best safety behind only Sherrick McMannis of the Chicago Bears.

“Justin’s been a ball-hawk, been able to get the rock for us,” Chris Harris Jr. said of his teammate per DenverBroncos.com. “A solid tackler, been able to play the center field as one of the best in the league, playing from sideline to sideline.”

He’s done a little bit of everything this season for the Broncos, and has even recently been named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee. That nomination goes to the man who’s been doing the most in the community and Simmons has worked hard as the Broncos’ ambassador to “Fuel up to Play 60” campaign, as well as with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, Children’s Hospital of Colorado, the Denver Rescue Mission and too many more to name here.

Simply, he’s a blossoming star on the field. In the locker room, his teammates love him. And off the field, there is no one better currently on the Broncos.

So, why haven’t the Broncos re-signed him yet? Or even worked toward that likely mutual goal?

Simmons is in the last year of his four-year rookie deal. In the first three seasons, the stellar safety averaged about $500,000, which is peanuts in the NFL. This year, due to hitting his performance bonuses, Simmons cashed in with a $2.025 million pay day. But, if the Broncos want to keep him in Denver for the long haul, they’ll need to pony up a lot more moving forward.

The top-five highest-paid safeties in 2019 are all earning at least $10 million per season, with Rashad Jones being the highest of them all receiving $17 million this year from the terrible Miami Dolphins.

So, maybe that’s the issue. Simmons knows he deserves to be paid and so do the Broncos, but there’s a lot of room for negotiation there. Simply, Denver can’t let one of their best draft picks of the last half-decade leave this season, and the good news is, the Broncos will have a ton of cap space next year.

Simmons is one of a giant group of players who are going into the offseason as free agents. That list includes Chris Harris, Shelby Harris, Derek Wolfe, Connor McGovern and Will Parks, all as unrestricted free agents. That group is definitely a talented bunch, but Simmons — due to his age and recent growth — must be the priority of them all.

After starting 0-4 this season and being as bad as 3-8, the Broncos have won back-to-back games and given the fanbase something to be excited about moving forward. If the team wants to continue those positive sentiments, re-signing Simmons before the season is over — before another team can swoop in and woo him — would go a long way in keeping Denver die-hards happy.

Denver faces the rival Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday at 11 a.m. MT, in the always tough Arrowhead Stadium.