ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Darian Stewart isn’t as big a name as Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby or T.J. Ward, his new teammates in Denver’s star-studded secondary.
That’s not to say he doesn’t belong right there with them.
“I feel I’m the final piece to the puzzle,” the sixth-year safety said Friday after signing a two-year deal with the Broncos to replace Rahim Moore, who left for a three-year, $12 million deal with Houston a day earlier.
“The secondary is one of the tops in the league and adding me I think we can get it done out there. We have a great organization and we have the personnel in place to get it done.”
The versatile Stewart is considered a better tackler than Moore, who had a solid 2014 season but is best known for getting beat on Jacoby Jones’ 70-yard touchdown in the playoffs that tied the game Baltimore went on to win in overtime on its way to winning the Super Bowl in 2013.
Stewart dealt with injuries when he played in St. Louis from 2010-13 after going undrafted out of South Carolina, but he had his best season in Baltimore last year. He played in all 16 games and started a career-best 14 times for the Ravens, recording 53 tackles, an interception, four pass breakups and a forced fumble.
He came up big in the playoffs, too, securing the Ravens’ wild-card win over Pittsburgh with a late interception in the end zone.
“I have nothing but respect for that organization. I was proud to be a Raven,” Stewart said. “But now I’m proud to be a Bronco, and I feel like me getting to the playoffs and getting that experience, it helped me a lot. And it spoiled me, so I’m just ready to get back there and this time to finish it.”
Stewart is the second Ravens free agent to follow Gary Kubiak to Denver. Kubiak, who was Baltimore’s offensive coordinator last year, brought along tight end Owen Daniels in the opening hours of free agency.
In addition to Moore, the Broncos have lost three other starters in free agency: tight end Julius Thomas, left guard Orlando Franklin and nose tackle Terrance Knighton.
In addition to Stewart, they’ve signed tight ends Daniels and Virgil Green (their own free agent) and defensive end Vance Walker.
That’s a rather quiet haul for a team that added headliners Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, DeMarcus Ware, Ward and Talib in recent years.
The Broncos don’t have the money to be big spenders in this year’s frenzied market. Plus, general manager John Elway said he’s expecting as many as four compensatory picks, giving Denver a total of 10 selections in this year’s draft. By losing four starters this week, the Broncos should be in line for another bevy of compensatory picks next year, too.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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