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Denver Broncos should extend Darian Stewart this year

Today we focus in and make the case for Denver to get a jump on 2017 free agents and re-sign Darian Stewart before his price rises.

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Earlier this off-season, Malik Jackson infamously claimed that Denver could have easily re-signed himself and Trevathan if they had approached them the previous season with a deal. On Wednesday, I covered whether or not the Denver Broncos should re-sign Brandon Marshall before next season and on Thursday it was Emmanuel Sanders' turn for his case for an extension.

Cap Situation

According to Over The Cap, Denver has around $8.2 million in cap space currently. That does not factor in Ronnie Hillman's new deal which is around $2 million. Add in around $2 million to sign our draft class and that leaves us close to our limit from a cap perspective since we ideally want some wiggle room heading into the season in case of injuries.

NOTE: Thanks for the corrections from commenters on the Brandon Marshall post on the draft class' cap space.

For this exercise, I am going to cut Colquitt as he is the 4th highest paid punter in the league at a $4 million cap hit, which is wayyy too much for any punter, let alone a league average (or below) punter. This move nets us $3.25 in cap space. So, I will set a $3 million cap limit for any new contract extension.

Since we only have a $3 million limit we can realistically only extend one of the 3 key free agents I have identified above. We have already made a case for extending Brandon Marshall and Emmanuel Sanders. Today we will look at...

Darian Stewart

The Case: D-Stew (as Kubiak and the players like to call him), completely balled out this year and took our secondary to another level. When he was signed last year, I assumed he would come in, try not to screw up, and get out of the way of all the pro-bowlers back there. But, he became an integral part of the No Fly Zone and made impact plays all year. This one has a little bit more question marks than the last two player we have looked at merely because he has only produced for one year. But, if I'm John Elway, I think I've seen enough in one year to want to lock this guy up long-term.

The Contract: For this comparison, we will look at 2 different safety contracts that were signed this year. First is George Iloka, a 25 year old SS who eventually re-signed with Cincinnati after finding a soft market for his services. He was ranked as the 15th rated safety by PFF this year.

Guaranteed money is pretty low throughout the entire deal making this a very team friendly contract for a 25 year old player. I see Stewart's camp making the argument that a free safety is more valuble than a strong safety, although the lines are getting more blurred between roles. So, for kicks, I threw in a FS contract signed this year that actually looks pretty comparable to something we could offer. Here is 25 year old Tashaun Gipson's contract he signed with the Jaguars in their free agency feeding fest.

On an APY basis, this one looks more menacing for the team to pull off, but if you look at the guaranteed money in the last 2 years of the contract, Gipson is likely to never play out those last 2 years at such a ballooned cap number due to the small dead money hit it would take to release him. So this deal is essentially a 3-year contract at $5.8m per year.

Stewart is set to count $3.2m against the cap this year, so we could easily add our budgeted $2-3m to this year's cap hit and extend him at that price.

Bottom line

Safety is already a need for us this year as our depth has been depleted by free agency, and T.J. Ward turns 30 this December. Darian Stewart could be a key piece of our secondary for years to come if we can lock him up on a reasonable deal before his price rises too high.