The Denver Broncos backend unit on defense will look different without Justin Simmons, but the team has to move forward with players on the roster to help make up for his absence. How will P.J. Locke and Brandon Jones factor into the equation as the team’s potential new safety duo? How will Caden Sterns factor into the mix and what does the depth look like behind those three names?

Denver Broncos looking for Locke, Jones, Sterns to lead safety room in 2024

Locke, Jones, and Sterns will be the three top players to headline the Denver Broncos safety position this upcoming season. While there is no replacing a player like Simmons, the Broncos defense is looking to help spread out that production with different personnel looks that feature Jones, Locke, Sterns, and potentially some young pieces.

Locke’s been a rising star year after year since landing with the Broncos in 2019. The 2023 season was when he kicked down the door and showcased that he could be an impact starter if given the opportunity. He appeared in 12 games last season and started eight, contributing 53 tackles, three sacks, one interception, and two forced fumbles. The veteran DB became the first Broncos safety in team history to record a sack in three straight games.

He’s embraced being the leader of that position group and had a strong offseason program.

Jones, one of the Broncos’ biggest acquisitions of this year’s NFL free agency period, will play quite a bit. While being previously known for his ability to be an impact player inside the box, he’ll play in that role and will also play the middle of the field as Denver’s defense requires it. He missed a couple of practices at OTAs with an ailment but was fully present during mandatory minicamp and should be fully healthy going into camp in July.

Factoring Sterns into the mix presents the Broncos defense with options from a personnel standpoint. Under new defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard, we could see Sterns, Locke, and Jones play in the box, the middle post area, and in the slot, depending on the situation and down and distance. Sterns continued to rehab his knee and progress after having patellar tendon surgery last year, and the team has taken the smart approach with him. Per source, he’s expected to be ready to go for the start of training camp — whether that’s as a full participant or limited participant is unknown just yet.

One thing we do know is that when Sterns is on the field, he’s a proven ballhawk and is always near the football. When it’s all said and done, the Broncos could have one of the most impactful safety trios in the league this upcoming season if things fall into place.

Broncos depth at safety

Behind the Denver Broncos three anticipated top safeties, there is plenty of competition for spots on the backend of the position room.

Delarrin Turner-Yell, Devon Key, JL Skinner, Tanner McCalister, and Omar Brown make up the other players at the position going into training camp.

Turner-Yell is still going through the recovery process after having surgery on the torn ACL he suffered in Denver’s Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Chargers — and his rehab has gone well, but he likely won’t be ready for the start of the regular season and could begin the year on the PUP list.

Key is a young name who emerged more during OTAs and minicamp, getting reps with the first team unit at times and standing out on special teams. He spent most of 2023 as a member of the practice squad and should be identified as a player to watch for in camp for Broncos Country.

Skinner is looking to take a bigger stride forward this season after redshirting most of 2023. His size and athleticism could allow him to play a bit of a hybrid role for Vance Joseph on defense. With Turner-Yell’s injury, a spot for a role on special teams has opened up and Skinner is somebody who should step into that voided role during training camp and preseason. If he excels in this area, he very well could add value to Denver rotationally in various situations if called upon.

McCalister is a player who caught my eye early on during OTAs. He’s very athletic and demonstrated the ability to play both safety roles, rolling down into the box or playing the middle of the field. With the depth currently at the position, the climb to earn a 53-man roster spot will be tough — but he could make a strong case in the preseason if he makes enough plays. In a worst-case scenario, he’ll be a strong candidate to be brought back onto the practice squad.

Brown is an undrafted rookie free agent at the position and will also face a steep climb, but could find himself on the practice squad with a strong camp and preseason slate.

Who makes the Broncos 53-man roster at safety?

I’ve got the Denver Broncos keeping five safeties on the active roster this upcoming season. P.J. Locke, Caden Sterns, Brandon Jones, JL Skinner, and Devon Key are the names I project to make the 53-man roster. With Turner-Yell more than likely going on the PUP before the regular season, Key is the one name I feel will step into a role early on — potentially emerging as one of the team’s best young special teams players.

Broncos camp begins with rookies reporting on July 17 and veterans on July 23. Fans can attend the first open practice of camp on July 26 at Broncos Park Powered by CommonSpirit.

Denver Broncos safety personnel

  • P.J. Locke
  • Brandon Jones
  • Caden Sterns
  • Devon Key
  • JL Skinner
  • Tanner McCalister
  • Omar Brown
  • Delarrin Turner-Yell
  • Keidron Smith