Should John Elway grab the best corner on the market in Ronald Darby?
With the NFL Combine completed, we are now looking towards free agency as the legal tampering period opens up next week. Everyone from John Elway to your mom’s hairdresser knows the Broncos have a pressing need in the defensive backfield. The ‘No Fly Zone’ still got thrown around last year, but in reality the Denver D was overly dependent on Chris Harris and the pass rush to keep points off the board.
That needs to change if the playoffs really are the goal. Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs aren’t going anywhere and field the most imposing aerial attack in the league. The surest way to compete for the postseason is to win the division, and that’s the single biggest argument for the Philadelphia Eagles former Cornerback Ronald Darby.
Weight: 193 lbs
Experience: 5th year
Darby was the Buffalo Bills second-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft but found himself traded for Jordan Matthews and a third round pick in 2017. He suffered an ankle injury his first year with the Eagles but still finished the year with 34 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 9 passes defensed.
After helping Philadelphia bring home their first Lombardi, Darby had another injury plagued year in 2018. He started the first 9 games of the year but hit IR after tearing his ACL in a week 10 game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite the injury concerns, Pro Football Focus considers Darby the best free agent option available this spring.
Set to hit free agency at the ripe age of 25, Darby offers consistency – he graded above 70.0 in three of his four seasons alongside a respectable 68.3 in 2016 – and upside with an overall grade that ranked 22nd out of 120 qualifiers in 2017. He has shown a knack for disrupting passes with 50 regular-season forced incompletions since entering the league, ranking 12thamong all cornerbacks who have seen at least 100 targets over that span. Though coming off a torn ACL, Darby is likely the best free agent option available for cornerback-needy teams.
Why this makes sense
When he’s played, Darby has consistenly been a strong cover man. He’d step in as a corner adept at zone coverage who could also man up a receiver when needed. He’s young enough to suggest that his best football is still ahead of him. Even still, Darby has been battle tested in the playoffs and come out of it with a ring.
Why it doesn’t make sense
Injuries are often a result of poor luck, but there comes a point where availability is also a skill. One that Darby has lacked during his time with the Eagles. Compound that with a market value Spotrac pegs around $13.46 million a year? The fifth year corner is going to be very costly.
The injury risk vs. his cost leaves me a bit squeamish, but there’s no doubt he’d be an upgrade over Darby and Yiadom, if he can stay on the field.