NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans took plenty of heat for selecting defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons at No. 19 overall in the 2019 NFL draft.
Not over the left ACL he tore that February. It was a 3-year-old arrest and video showing Simmons punching a woman that made it so surprising the lineman was selected by a team controlled by one of the NFL’s few female owners.
Simmons, who signed a four-year contract extension on Wednesday, said he texted Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk to thank her for trusting him. She answered back that he promised he would never let her down and he hasn’t.
“That right there, it hit something inside because, you know, to have a female owner, a lady owner, in the NFL to trust in you so much from kind of the adversity I went throughout my journey to get here, it means so much to me,” Simmons said.
The now two-time Pro Bowler said he appreciates “Miss Amy” so much after both Strunk and her new general manager, Ran Carthon, who was hired in January, made clear he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“To the Titans’ organization we have a lot of work to do,” Simmons said. “We just getting started.”
Simmons and the Titans agreed on April 7 to the extension reportedly worth up to $94 million, with $66 million guaranteed, including a $24 million signing bonus. The Titans announced the extension Tuesday and gave Simmons and his family the chance to celebrate a day later after the signing.
The deal includes a fifth-year option and keeps Simmons under contract through 2027 at an annual average of $23.5 million per year. That trails only the $31.6 million per year averaged by three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams among defensive tackles.
Simmons paused and had tears streaming down his face at one point Wednesday. He said he now has generational wealth after being raised by a single mother with four siblings, moving from apartment to apartment, house to house, sharing a bed with a brother in Mississippi.
“That’s why I do it … man every day I wake up,” Simmons said.
With this deal done before the draft that starts April 27, the Titans avoided last year’s drama when they couldn’t reach a new contract with Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, who was traded during the first round to Philadelphia for the 18th pick overall.
They already had picked up Simmons’ fifth-year option for 2023.
Simmons has 21 career sacks, second on the Titans behind outside linebacker Harold Landry III, who has 26 1/2. Simmons has 196 tackles, 19 passes defended, two forced fumbles and three recovered fumbles. He has started 54 of 56 games after missing the first six games as a rookie.
He led the NFL’s stingiest run defense in 2022, allowing only 76.9 yards rushing per game, and was named to a second straight Pro Bowl after posting 7 1/2 sacks. Only Simmons and J.J. Watt of Arizona had at least seven sacks and seven passes defended in 2022.
Carthon said talks on this extension started right after the Senior Bowl.
“There’s a model for what you want a player to be and what you want your organization to look like, and I think Jeff is one of those models for us,” Carthon said. “So this was something that was a priority to get done.”
Coach Mike Vrabel recalled how Simmons truthfully answered all the questions they threw at him during a visit to Mississippi State.
“You’ve earned this,” Vrabel said. “We’re going to continue to hold you to a high standard. That’ll be the fun part, but certainly embody everything we believe in here as a team captain and a leader in your performance on the field.”
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker
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