Ronald Darby knew the Philadelphia Eagles wanted him back, which is why Darby decided to return to the Eagles on a one-year deal last month. The biggest supporter in Darby’s corner (no pun intended) may have been Eagles head coach Doug Pederson).
Pederson knew the Eagles secondary would be better off with Darby in it, which is why he’s excited to have him back in the NovaCare Complex for another year.
“Ronald was having a really good season before the injury,” Pederson said at the NFL Coaches Breakfast last week. “He’s a really good corner. And he gives us depth at that spot.
“I was excited that he wanted to come back and sign with us, even though it’s a one-year deal, I’m excited to have him back. I look forward to getting him out there when he’s ready. It really solidifies that corner position.”
Philadelphia has plenty of depth at cornerback and could have survived without Darby, but the fifth-year cornerback is an upper echelon starter when 100 percent.
When Darby returned from his ankle injury in 2017 (that caused them to miss eight games), he made an impact with 34 tackles, three interceptions, and nine pass deflections in just eight games.
Darby was one of the best cornerbacks lined up in off coverage, allowing a passer rating of just 34.5 (third in the NFL). Darby was ranked 24th by Pro Football Focus among cornerbacks, grading at 84.2 (83.8 in coverage).
Darby led the Eagles with 22 tackles (17 solo) and seven pass deflections during their Super Bowl 52-winning playoff run. He produced a career-high-tying four pass deflections in the NFC Championship Game and also registered a career-high-tying 10 tackles (eight solo) against the Atlanta Falcons the week before. Despite missing eight games due to injury, Darby ranked second on the Eagles defense with a career-high three interceptions.
Opposing quarterbacks had a 57.2 passer rating when targeting Darby in his first season with the Eagles. Darby took that 2017 momentum into 2018, having 43 tackles, 12 pass deflections and an interception in nine games.
Darby allowed 44 catches for 418 yards (9.5 yards per catch) and three touchdowns, 102 yards of which were after the catch. Opposing quarterbacks had just an 86.5 passer rating when targeting Darby.
In 2017, Darby allowed 26 catches for 322 yards (12.4 yards per catch) and just one touchdown. Combining the two seasons, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating below 70 when targeting Darby, who just turned 25 this January.
The Eagles secondary is clearly better with Darby on the field than they are when he’s off it. Darby has a spot solidified at outside cornerback for 2019, as the Eagles have him at a bargain for $2,825,000, with four dead years to save cap space. The Eagles have a contract trigger for February 17, 2020 that has an option for Darby, giving them some flexibility to re-sign him in case Darby plays at a high level (just like the last two years with the Eagles).
If Darby plays at a level he’s capable of, Pederson will likely be at the forefront for the Eagles to sign him long term.