At long last, after languishing on the open market, Darian Stewart has a new NFL home.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Stewart to an undisclosed (likely one-year) contract, the team announced Tuesday. To make room on the 90-man roster, the Bucs released rookie defensive lineman Dare Odeyingbo.
Stewart, who turned 31 on Aug. 4, spent the last four seasons with the Denver Broncos, where he operated as a starter after inking a free-agent contract in 2015. He appeared in 61 games over that span, collecting 250 combined tackles, 24 pass deflections and nine interceptions.
His best campaign came in 2016, when he started all 16 games and notched three INTs en route to his first — and only — Pro Bowl selection. Stewart also helped Denver capture an improbable Super Bowl 50 title the year prior.
Before joining the Broncos, Stewart played for the Baltimore Ravens in 2014 and the then-St. Louis Rams from 2010-13. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina.
Departure From Denver
Stewart was solid, then passable, then downright detrimental to the Broncos’ defense. He was caught out of position frequently in 2018, a key culprit for the team’s recent decline against the pass.
The Broncos bit the bullet this March by cutting Stewart and replacing him with marquee free-agent addition Kareem Jackson. The cap-clearing move freed about $3.6 million, which enabled the club to land Jackson (among others).
“Broncos country thank you all for the love you showed me and my family these past 4 years,” Stewart wrote on Instagram at the time of his release. “But it’s time for me to move on and I’m looking forward to the next chapter. I still got a whole lotta [football] left in me so I’ll see y’all real soon.”
Stewart failed to draw significant interest around the league, save for a single visit to the Indianapolis Colts that, obviously, did not result in a deal. The Colts, meanwhile, signed former Broncos QB Chad Kelly this offseason, so make of Stewart’s kicked-rocks what you will.
(Side note: What is it with the Bucs and the Broncos’ rubbish? In 2017, they signed ex-No Fly Zone enforcer T.J. Ward, who played in 12 games that season before being arrested for marijuana possession.)
What He Brings to Tampa Bay
Stewart is a little long in the tooth and isn’t a difference-maker, nor is he likely an every-down player at this stage of his career. Boiled down, he’s valuable depth for a young Buccaneers team which is undergoing a massive culture change under new head coach Bruce Arians.
Tampa Bay currently has Justin Evans and Kentrell Brice penciled in as starters at the position. But Evans (foot) was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list to open camp, and Brice’s ceiling is that of a dependable reserve.
Intangibly, Stewart should provide excellent mentorship and help stabilize the locker room. Tangibly, he’ll probably slide in as the No. 3 safety, leapfrogging Mike Edwards, for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL