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DENVER, Colo – Who will start at Free safety for the Broncos? That’s the $750,000 question. That’s the difference in salary this season for the two players currently vying to start at free safety, newly acquired, Darian Stewart and long-time Special Teams ace, David Bruton.
Stewart signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million after spending last season in Baltimore. This year he’s slated to make $2.25 million when you factor in his signing bonus of $1.5 million. With the departure of much-maligned Rahim “The Dream” (self-nickname) Moore, it seems obvious that Stewart would step right in to the starting lineup.
“It’s my position to lose,” Stewart said. “When I lineup at this level you gotta have that confidence. When I signed here, I knew it was my job.”
However, in the spirit of competition, Special Teams Captain David Bruton said a few weeks back that he’s not conceiting the stating free safety job to Stewart or anyone, at this point and envisions a bigger role for himself on defense in 2015. “That’s my goal,” the seventh-year player from Notre Dame said. “ I feel as though I played extremely well when I had my opportunity last year. I feel like I played well throughout training camp last year as well, and I plan to carry that on.
Stewart spent his first four season in St. Louis as an undrafted player out of South Carolina. Nagging injuries marred his time with the Rams. Stewart said today he feels great. Last season he started 14 games for the Ravens, had 57 tackles and one interception. As free agency opened, “DStew,” as his teammates call him, said his reason for choosing Denver was simple, “Gary Kubiak.”
“There would be times at practice (in Baltimore) that I’d just go down there and mess with the offense and just see what they had going on, and try to pick their brain, and try to learn their plays,” Stewart said. “That’ just something I couldn’t play, is offense. The plays are too long…it’s crazy, like learning a whole ‘nother language or something.”
Bruton, who’s in the final year of a three-year $4.5 million deal, likes his chances after seeing more time on the field at safety in 2014 than in any of his previous five seasons in Denver. “I feel confident,” Bruton said. “It’s tough to feel confident when you don’t have that opportunity throughout your last two or three seasons. The fact that I was finally granted that opportunity and now had a chance to shine, I just feel like I’m going into these OTAs, training camp and the season with a huge amount of confidence.”
Not surprisingly, Stewart is not lacking in confidence either, “When I’m healthy, I’m one of the best in the league, I feel like,” he said. “As long as I’m healthy and staying on the field, my play is gonna speak for itself.”
There was talk during the off-season that second-year cornerback Bradley Roby, third-year corner Kayvon Webster and veteran cornerback/safety Omar Bolden would get a shot to compete, but as Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips said after the team’s first voluntary mini-camp, “we’re looking at our safeties at safety right now.”
Stewart admitted that with the minimal time on the field so far this off-season, it’s hard to gauge who’s winning the battle to start. The competition could become a little clearer over the next month as the team is set to participate in three weeks of “Organized Team Activities” and one mandatory three-day mini–camp.
As he heads into a contract year, Bruton seems satisfied to just have a fair shot to start, “They haven’t come out and said anything, but you hear the best guy is going to play,” he said. “I hope that’s true. I plan to just play the best I can and let the chips fall where they may.”