Safety Kareem Jackson returning to Denver Broncos on one-year deal, sources say

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Right from the moment the Denver Broncos sent safety Kareem Jackson into free agency, general manager George Paton had said "the door is open'' for Jackson to return.

And Tuesday Jackson came back through the door with, according to multiple sources, a one-year deal that can be worth as much as $5 million. Earlier this month the Broncos had not exercised an option in Jackson's contract that would have engaged the final year of a three-year deal Jackson had signed in 2019.

Jackson had been scheduled to earn a $10 million base salary for '21 had the Broncos engaged the option.

But, after the first wave of free agency had passed, the Broncos and Jackson agreed to his return. Jackson, who will turn 33 next month, had a career-best 89 tackles for the Broncos last season and was one of the team's most productive players as he played every defensive snap (1,083).

Safety Justin Simmons, who signed a four-year, $61 million deal in recent days to become the highest-paid safety in the league, has repeatedly said how important Jackson has been in his own development.

"(Just) having the opportunity to play with Kareem,'' Simmons said Monday. "I've learned so much from so many guys, and I've (tried) to incorporate that into my game.''

Jackson's return is the capstone on the work the Broncos have done to rework their defense. In addition to re-signing Simmons, the Broncos re-signed defensive end Shelby Harris, exercised the option in linebacker Von Miller's contract for the 2021 season and then signed cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller.

NFL Network first reported the news of Jackson's return.

Paton has emphasized throughout the offseason the best defenses in the league "can rush and cover.'' The Broncos, in a division with the roll call of quarterbacks that starts with Patrick Mahomes and includes the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert as well as Derek Carr, finished No. 1 in the league in red zone defense last season, but were tied for 16th in pass defense and tied for 23rd in interceptions.

Only Las Vegas, Detroit and Houston forced fewer turnovers last season than the Broncos' 16.

"It's going to be great,'' Simmons said of the offseason work on defense. "I'm really excited.''