ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Leaving “the door open” for Kareem Jackson’s possible return proved yet another shrewd move by new Broncos general manager George Paton. The veteran safety agreed Tuesday to return to Denver on a one-year deal worth up to $5 million.

After failing to reach agreement on a restructured deal lowering Jackson’s salary cap hit earlier this month, the Broncos declined to exercise his $10 million option for 2021, freeing the 12th-year pro to check out the open market.

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Kareem Jackson #22 of the Denver Broncos celebrates during the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

“We had great conversations with his agent,” Paton said at the time. “We tried to get something done but we couldn’t. We left the door open for Kareem to come back but we just couldn’t get something worked out.”

Jackson returns to a refurbished defense that’s been the hallmark of Paton’s first crack at roster building as Rick Spielman’s protégé and John Elway’s successor.

Paton, who said the best teams in the league “can rush and cover,” has put that philosophy into practice by retaining linebacker Von Miller, safety Justin Simmons, defensive end Shelby Harris and now Jackson while adding cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency.

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Kareem Jackson (22) of the Denver Broncos jumps into the arms of Bryce Callahan (29) after Callahan intercepted a pass thrown by Justin Herbert (10) of the Los Angeles Chargers intended for Mike Williams (81) during the second half of Denver’s 31-30 win on Sunday, November 1, 2020. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

After signing a four-year, $61 million deal this week, Simmons credited Jackson for helping him become the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

“I’ve been so blessed since the day I got here. T.J. (Ward) and Darian Stewart and having the opportunity to play with Kareem,” Simmons said. “I’ve learned so much from so many guys and I’ve (tried) to incorporate that into my game with both film study and how to take care of my body.”

Jackson is coming off a career-best 89-tackle season in 2020, when he didn’t miss a snap.

By ARNIE STAPLETON AP Pro Football Writer

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