In the sixth of Thin Air’s series on previewing 2017’s training camp for the Broncos is a look at safeties.
As with cornerback, the safety positions are stocked with excellent starters and solid promising backups. There may be even less competition here than at cornerback–unless a very unusual move is made by a player in training camp.
With a recent four year extension in hand, Stewart is primed to man the free safety position for quite some time, as his 94.5% of snaps taken in 2016 attests to. For 2017 at least, the presumption will be business as usual for Stewart in the defensive backfield.
Ward also logged a high number of snaps in 2016 at 86%, and that includes him missing the final two games of the season. Unlike Stewart, however, Ward enters the final year of his contract, and will be 31 by the time the season ends. These are two factors to watch for not so much in training camp, but as the regular season progresses. It will be interesting to see if Ward keeps his snap counts high, or if he gets some of them eaten by the players immediately below him on the depth chart.
Justin Simmons and Will Parks
The dynamic duo from the 2016 draft class now have a year under their belts, and it will be fascinating to see if they can take the next step forward in their NFL careers. If they do, in 2017 it gives the Broncos incredible depth at the safety position that will help to keep the older Stewart and Ward fresh.
It cannot be forgotten that Parks has a pending domestic violence charge against him, so his future has been made murky until the result of this investigation, ranging from what happens legally to what the NFL decides with discipline, concludes. Given the wide list of names below, one cannot help but wonder if the Broncos, who have known about this charge since March, acquired them just in case they must move on from Parks.
Jamal Carter, Dante Barrett, Orion Stewart, and Dymonte Thomas
Despite the presence of the four incumbent safeties above them, the Broncos were incredibly aggressive in pursuing safeties on the undrafted free agent market in 2017. Not only did they acquire the four names listed, they gave Carter $20,000 in guarantees, and Stewart a $12,500 signing bonus. This strongly indicates that at least one of these four will make at least the practice squad, and if one really impresses on special teams and at safety, there might be an outside chance of him making the active roster. (Chris Harris, Jr., for one, is quite impressed with Barrett.) If you’re the type of diehard fan that enjoys watching the fourth preseason game to try to divine who’s going to make the roster, the safety position is a place you might want to bring extra focus to.