The Denver Broncos have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with veteran safety Darian Stewart, the team announced. The deal comes on the heels of Stewart’s visit to Dove Valley to meet with the team.
Undrafted out of South Carolina in 2010, Stewart originally debuted for the St. Louis Rams but played for the Baltimore Ravens last year. In 2014, he started 16 games for Baltimore (including playoffs), notching 37 solo tackles and an interception.
Most of those starts were at strong safety, but Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that Stewart will in fact replace Rahim Moore as the Broncos starting free safety. Stewart has experience starting in both safety slots. His versatility brings great value to the team.
“One thing about this league," Stewart said today, "the more you can do, the better off you will be. My versatility, it helps me a lot, but not just with the safeties. Just trying to know where everyone’s at. I take pride in that. It all plays its part, especially with run fits and on the back end.”
In his media conference call, Stewart was point-blank asked if he will be replacing Moore at free safety, to which he succinctly replied, "Correct." He knows he's stepping into a secondary, three of whom were elected to the Pro Bowl last year, that seems to be on the brink of something special. Stewart spoke to that.
“I feel like I’m the final piece to the puzzle," he said. "The secondary, they’re one of the tops in the league, and I felt like they can get it done out there. We have a great organization and we have the personnel in place to get it done.”
Stewart played very well for the Ravens last year. His fourth quarter interception of Ben Roethlisberger in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs, helped seal a 30-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. His 2014 performance earned him a +3.0 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus. If his two postseason games are included, he finished 16 starts with a +7.0 cumulative grade.
Playing in the Ravens system seems to bring the best out of elite talents and unheralded guys, like Stewart. John Harbaugh and his staff know how to get the most out of their players. Stewart appreciates what he was able to soak up in his time in Baltimore.
“The Ravens organization, they treated me right," Stewart opined. "I have nothing but respect for that organization. I was proud to be a Raven, but now I’m proud to be a Bronco and I’m looking forward to it. I feel like me getting to the playoffs and me getting that experience, it helped me a lot. I’m just ready to get back, and this time finish it."
He’s a smart, scrappy player who understands coverage concepts and isn't afraid to stick his nose in the action in run support. For those worried about the loss of Moore, Stewart outperformed him in almost every way in 2014—which was a career season for Moore. Stewart talked about how he envisions himself as a safety today.
“Just smart," he said, "and just playing the game how it’s supposed to be played. Knowing what I’m getting from an offense and just playing the game with the quarterback. I feel like I do that well and I’m only getting better.”
The former Gamecock is excited to be in Denver and looks forward to his role on a defense that sent five players to the Pro Bowl, and could have sent seven. The Broncos culture is one that Stewart will fit right into. He's obviously looking forward to playing with his new teammates in the secondary, especially.
“Most definitely, and I’m thankful for it," he said. "I’m just ready to work. I feel like I always play with a chip on my shoulder, and that chip still remains. I’m not done yet. I’m just ready to make plays. I’m excited about coming out there and getting to work and working with the secondary."
Stewart joins Owen Daniels and Vance Walker as the newest members of the Denver Broncos—a group that will be measured against John Elway’s four previous free agent classes, which have all been highly impactful. How well Elway did this time around won’t be known for some time. But if history is any indication, Broncos Country has good reason to be optimistic.
Below are collegiate highlights of Darian Stewart with the Gamecocks to give you a picture of his skill-set. We will provide more in depth film analysis in future.
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