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Darian Stewart remains an integral part of the Broncos defense

With reports flying Aqib Talib is likely out in Denver, Stewart becomes even more crucial to the locker room.

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DENVER BRONCOS VS WASHINGTON REDSKINS Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Don’t let the quiet nature of Darian Stewart fool you. He lets his play on the field speak for him.

The Denver Broncos safety may not partake in the “look at me antics” some at his position often do, but that doesn’t make him any less effective or important to this defense.

We saw that again in 2017.

Stewart stats 2017

Stewart started 15 and played in all 16 regular-season games for the Broncos this season. According to Pro Football Reference, he finished with 52 tackles, 11 assisted. Stewart also had three interceptions and five passes defended. For a defense that only forced 17 turnovers, Stewart’s contributions were massive this season.

The numbers show that Stewart plays a big role in the passing and running defense. Denver’s defense was fourth in passing and fifth in rushing. Keep in mind this also was the first season Stewart played with Justin Simmons, so that experience and knowledge will benefit both, as well as the defense. How often have we heard the need for continuity? This is one area where that makes sense.

Stewart PFF grade

Pro Football Focus didn’t offer much on Stewart aside from his overall grade of a 70.3. That puts him in the “average” category and puts him as the No. 63 safety on the list.

Stewart contract

Stewart has three years remaining on his contract, with a salary cap hit of $5.9 million in 2018. That’s a pretty good deal for both parties and one that indicates he will remain with the team for at least the coming season.

The cap hit sits at $4.2 million, with only $1.7 million in savings. There’s a chance Denver moves on from Stewart with the younger guys on the roster behind him, but I just don’t see it. What makes matters really intriguing is what triggers after June 1. After that time, the contract flips so the money in savings is $4.5 million and dead money is $1.4 million. This remains one of the most interesting decisions Elway and the front office makes in the next month or so.

2018 status

Stewart turns 30 shortly after training camp starts. When you consider that, along with his friendly deal, it becomes clear he will remain an integral part of Denver’s defense in 2018. The money saved by cutting or trading him only becomes valuable after June 1. By that time you’re closing in on mandatory mini camp and through the offseason schedule. Any move made would have to come prior to that to allow the new player time to learn the defense and start to build cohesion with teammates.

The idea of Stewart and Simmons getting another offseason to build off of 2017 seems more valuable. When you then look at the list of free agents, one of the few possibilities is Morgan Burnett, and he’s basically Stewart without the knowledge of the defense. That only solidifies Stewart’s return next season.

Plus, with all of the reports and rumors flying around about the changes coming to the roster, leaders like Stewart are more crucial in the locker room. Even if they are ones who are more quiet by nature.