As some of you know who have been reading MHR for awhile, I’m a HUGE fan of good safety play. It was something that set us apart back in the 90s and something we really missed in a big way in the 00’s - 10’s until recently.
Safeties are in my opinion one of the biggest factors in whether a defense is sound or not. In today’s NFL of high-flying passing offenses and rules that favor that style of play, it is a good free safety that is able to keep an offense in check.
As far as skill goes, they need a very different skill-set than a corner to be really “great.” This includes the ability to read route combinations in real time, study at a high level so they know which route to break on, take sound angles in order to help cover routes up both over the top and underneath, and many times know what defensive calls and adjustments need to be made for the whole squad pre-snap.
There aren’t many top-tier free safeties in the NFL. Signing one like Darian Stewart is a major plus for the Denver Broncos. Let’s dig into some thoughts on why the team made the move, why the player agreed, and what this says about our team.
First of all, the Broncos absolutely believe in defensive football. Elway has learned quickly in his tenure as GM that the really good teams that keep being in the mix in the post season have one thing in common: a strong defense.
There are two things that in today’s NFL make a defense strong:
- A great pass rush
- A great secondary
Look around the league at teams like Houston, Seattle, Minnesota and Arizona and you will see defenses that have these two things in some form or fashion.
Also fresh off of a Super Bowl season, who were the most productive pieces of the Denver Broncos defense in 2016? #1 has to be Von Miller. No one is going to argue that. But #2 in my opinion was Darian Stewart. When he was injured last year, our defense lost a level or two. He’s shown himself as a ball-hawking safety who is the quarterback of the No Fly Zone.
Simply put, Stewart is a premier player for our defense. Making this move shows how much Elway and the Broncos think of his play.
But what about that young blood?
The first argument some in Broncos Country are going to have is what about those two stud safeties we just drafted? Why don’t we let him go, get a compensatory pick, and coach up one of these young guys to take the free safety spot?
That’s a great point. I’d argue that Denver is going to have the flexibility to do just that over the course of the next few years. Elway structures most of his contracts so that we’re only tied to the player for the first couple of years of the contract (3 in some cases, but that’s rare). Right now those rookie safeties are on cheap rookie contracts and we will have no trouble keeping them on the team while Stewart is still the man. If he has an injury (God forbid) or his play falls off severely, there will be a place where the team will be able to make this switch.
The other point to make goes back to what I said up in the intro: the safety position requires a great amount of skill. Those young studs are doing awesome, but for either of them to reach the skill level of Darian Stewart by the beginning of next season is a very tall order. Patience is the order of the day with them.
Why in the world would a player as great as Darian Stewart sign an extension with a home-town discount when he could make big money on the open market? This was my big question this year as far as D Stew went. He’s a quiet guy for the most part and didn’t talk about money much.
At the end of the day though, you can ask this same question about Chris Harris, Jr., Derek Wolfe, Emmanuel Sanders, and Brandon Marshall. It isn’t always about the money.
Some players really like to win.
Some players want to secure their future and not risk injury when given an opportunity to sign an extension.
Some players really like find a place to be settled and raise a family.
Some players want to play for an organization that they know will treat them right.
Hopefully someone in the media will have the chance to ask Stewart about this and he can speak to hit just like those others we’ve extended in recent years have.
What about the open market?
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty decent arm-chair GM. I’ll just say here that in the open market, I think Darian Stewart would have commanded something like 4 years at $40 million easily. While I rate him top-3, he’s easily a top-5 NFL safety and would get paid as such were he to move on this off-season. There aren’t 10 guys as good as Stewart in the NFL. Basic supply and demand tells you everything you’d need to know if money was the only angle you were looking at.
Reflection on Denver and the Broncos organization
This is yet another in a string of signings that lends me to the following opinions:
- John Elway is a very sharp GM who does a great job keeping solid talent in Denver without breaking the bank.
- Our team likes to extend good players who have talent, motor, and a team-minded attitude.
- Players like to play for the Broncos organization
- Denver is great place to live
I know all of us as fans thinks the Denver Broncos are a class “A” organization at the top of the pecking order in the NFL. These kinds of signings just echo that sentiment from the players who sign them.
Sure, one deal like this may show that a player is a sucker. But when you see one or two guys each year sign team friendly deals to keep playing for the orange and blue it has to be much bigger than just that.
Congratulations to Darian Stewart, his family, and to the Denver Broncos organization for getting this deal done.