Ronald Darby

Ronald Darby Issues Statement On Jameis Winston

The Uber driver who has accused Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston of groping her in March 2016 has said that she and Winston were alone in her vehicle at the time of the alleged incident, whereas Winston’s representatives say there were several people in the car, and that Winston was in the backseat. Now, Eagles cornerback (and Winston’s former collegiate teammate) Ronald Darby has spoken out on Winston’s behalf, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.

Jameis Winston (vertical)

Darby, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with Buffalo this offseason — but who has only suited up for one game this season due to an ankle injury — issued a statement this morning indicating that he was one of the other passengers in the vehicle. He said:

“I felt the need to come forward and clarify some inaccurate accounts of the evening of March 13, 2016 when myself, a friend and Jameis Winston took an Uber ride in Arizona. There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.”

Darby and Winston were teammates at Florida State in 2013 and 2014, and both were selected in the 2015 draft (Winston, of course, was the first overall pick in that draft, while Darby was taken with the 50th overall selection). And, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, this marks the second time that Darby has witnessed an incident that resulted in Winston’s being accused of sexual misconduct. Darby was in Winston’s apartment the night Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow FSU student in 2012.

Schefter also reports that the NFL has still not informed the NFL Players Association that there is now an investigation of one of its players, which the league is required to do. While everyone knows that the investigation has been launched, and the league’s informing the NFLPA of the same is largely just a formality, the fact that it has not been done is an inauspicious start to what many expect will be another messy, drawn-out process.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: McCloughan, Giants, Rowe

Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan filed a grievance against Washington for the balance of his contract, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, and in-house litigation is moving forward. The Redskins refused to pay McCloughan after firing him, alleging that they had cause for doing so (which is believed to be McCloughan’s struggles with alcoholism). McCloughan’s contract requires him to file a grievance with the league rather than file suit in an independent court, which is standard among contracts for front-office employees and coaches, who are not represented by a union.

Now let’s take a look at more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • James Kratch of NJ.com believes Giants O-lineman Justin Pugh will be looking for $11MM annually when he hits free agency after the season, with around $30MM guaranteed. Kratch adds that Big Blue will be interested in re-signing Orleans Darkwa, who is also a free agent at the end of the year, though the club will not break the bank for him.
  • Giants head coach Ben McAdoo might have ceded play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, but as Howie Kussoy of the New York Post rights, McAdoo retains “veto power” if he does not approve of a play that Sullivan calls.
  • Eagles CB Ronald Darby practiced this past week for the first time since the ugly ankle injury that he sustained in Week 1, and while his absence as not hurt Philadelphia yet, the team needs him back on the field. As Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, there is no exact timetable for Darby’s return to game action, but it should only be a matter of time at this point (though he is not expected to play tomorrow night against Washington).
  • Patriots CB Eric Rowe is set to miss tonight’s game against Atlanta with a groin injury, meaning he will have played less than 21.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com points out, If Rowe plays in more than 50 percent of New England’s defensive snaps this season, the team will send a 2018 third-round draft choice to the Eagles to complete the trade that sent Rowe to the Pats. However, if he plays in fewer than 50 percent of the snaps, New England will send a fourth-rounder to Philadelphia, so it is looking increasingly likely that it will be a fourth-round pick heading the Eagles’ way in 2018.

Eagles’ Ronald Darby Has Dislocated Ankle

Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby suffered a dislocated ankle during Sunday’s victory against the Redskins, but things are not as bad as they could have been. An MRI on Monday morning showed that Darby did not suffer any major ligament damage, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The dislocated ankle will keep him out for 4-6 weeks.Ronald Darby (Vertical)

Without Darby, a thin Philadelphia secondary now becomes a even thinner with Patrick Robinson likely joining Jalen Mills as a starter in base packages. The Eagles played with only three active cornerbacks Sunday, relying on the ability of their safeties — including Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins — to moonlight at corner if needed. Going forward, Rasul Douglas and/or Dexter McDougle will likely be active.

Other options could be in play, as well, including the potential promotion of practice squad corner C.J. Smith. Alternatively, the Eagles could hypothetically look to re-sign free agents Leodis McKelvin or Ron Brooks, both of whom were released earlier this year. Neither played well for Philadelphia in 2016, but both are familiar with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz‘s scheme.

Darby is a newcomer to the Eagles’ defensive backfield, as the Birds acquired him from the Bills last month in exchange for a third-round pick and receiver Jordan Matthews. A former second-round draft choice, Darby has been up-and-down through two NFL seasons, but had been poised to serve as Philadelphia’s No. 1 cornerback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Watkins, Elliott, Eagles

Sammy Watkins addressed his contract situation for the first time as a Rams employee on Saturday. Rams GM Les Snead said Friday he hopes to sign the recent trade acquisition to an extension and avoid a one-and-done scenario for the former first-round pick. But it doesn’t sound like Watkins is especially anxious to discuss a new deal just yet. The former Bills No. 1 target may be willing to take his chances he can enhance his stock this season.

I gotta handle my business and control what I can control. If I go out there and have a year that I’m expecting to have, then we can talk contract,” Watkins said, via Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. “But I still gotta go out there and do my job and let those guys handle the paperwork, contracts, numbers.”

Watkins is a free agent after this season. Plenty of dominoes could fall to rearrange the marketplace between now and free agency, though. Joining Watkins as walk-year receivers are DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson and Davante Adams. Extensions for players in this group will affect the others. But Watkins is also coming off an injury-plagued season, so the 24-year-old pass-catcher staying healthy is probably his top obstacle in the path of a possible eight-figure-per-year deal. On that front, Watkins said (per Gonzalez, on Twitter) his foot is “100 percent healthy.”

Here’s the latest from the NFC:

  • The advisors who played a key role in the Ezekiel Elliott investigation did not recommend a specific suspension to Roger Goodell, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports. The commissioner handed out the six-game ban to the Cowboys running back in accordance with the December 2014 adjustment to the personal conduct policy that mandated a minimum six-game suspension for domestic violence. While Josh Brown managed to receive only a one-game ban for his alleged domestic-abuse incidents, the NFL followed its revised protocols in the Elliott case.
  • One off-field allegation appears to be in Elliott’s past, however. The accusation from a man who said Elliott broke his nose at a bar in July is closed, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said (via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, on Twitter). McCarthy added the caveat of new evidence potentially prompting the league to revisit the matter, but for now, it’s closed. Local authorities closed this investigation shortly after the alleged incident occurred, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk pointing out the victim could not be located.
  • Carson Wentz did not appear to be pleased by the Eagles trading Matthews to the Bills. The second-year quarterback met with Howie Roseman just before news of the trade broke. “I spoke with Howie shortly before it was news. He told me is was already done,” Wentz said, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. “He obviously knew how I felt with Jordan being one of my best friends. On the personal side it’s tough. He knew that, he was prepared for that and I told him that.” Matthews has been Philadelphia’s most reliable receiver over the past two seasons, leading Philly wideouts in receiving yards by comfortable margins in each. Shorr-Parks adds in a separate piece the Eagles will regret this trade. Of the players the Eagles are projected to start now, only Nelson Agholor is controlled past 2017. Shorr-Parks notes Jeffery’s injury history, Torrey Smith‘s rough 2016 season and the uncertainty surrounding Agholor don’t provide much certainty for this corps.
  • The draft choice the Eagles will receive in the Matthews/Ronald Darby swap is not a conditional third-rounder, as it was initially reported on the NFL transaction wire. The Eagles will send the Bills their third-round pick in 2018, Jeff McLane of Philly.com tweets.

Reactions From Bills’ Two-Trade Day

The Bills reshaped their team and 2018 draft with two trades on Friday afternoon. Buffalo unloaded Sammy Watkins to the Rams for E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick. The Bills then shipped Ronald Darby to the Eagles for Jordan Matthews and a third-rounder. Here’s the latest fallout from these deals.

  • Eagles GM Howie Roseman said the team didn’t shop Matthews but acknowledged the fourth-year wideout being in trade rumors since March accelerated the actual trade. Roseman, per Zach Berman of Philly.com (on Twitter) said when trade rumors are out there, “people call.” Roseman added Darby — a 2015 second-round pick — having two years left on his rookie contract cemented the deal for the Eagles. “The big factor for us was we weren’t getting a free agent back, too,” Roseman said (via Berman, on Twitter). “We wouldn’t have done the trade if a player had one year left.”
  • A perpetual injury risk, Watkins seeing another team take a chance on him in a contract year indicates belief he can stay healthy, ESPN.com’s Stephania Bell tweets. Bell adds a member of the Bills medical staff is now with the Rams. Watkins missed eight games last season and three in 2015. He played in all 16 games as a rookie.
  • ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano picked up a vibe while visiting Eagles camp the team was worried about their cornerbacks, and he notes the team is high on 2015 first-round wideout Nelson Agholor as a late-blooming talent. Although, he added the caveat of Agholor’s camp emergence could partially be due to Philly’s substandard corner situation. Graziano adds the Bills were worried about being too young at corner as well. Buffalo has overhauled its cornerback corps this offseason, cutting Nickell Robey-Coleman, letting Stephon Gilmore defect to New England and now trading Darby. The Bills added Shareece Wright, Tre’Davious White, Leonard Johnson and now Gaines. Darby is the latest Bills corner to join the Eagles, following Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. Graziano notes Darby is a higher-ceiling talent than anyone the Eagles previously had.
  • Graziano added Jordan Matthews not receiving a contract extension so many of his teammates did recently was a bad sign for his future in Philly. Berman points out (via Twitter) Alshon Jeffery is the receiver the Eagles will try to keep long-term. Jeffery signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia in March. A Matthews re-up may have gotten in the way of that for an Eagles team that’s seen the aforementioned extensions tie up its 2018 cap for the time being. The Eagles as of now are projected to have just $1MM in 2018 space.
  • The Rams were the only team to not receive a cornerback in these trades, but Wade Phillips is confident in his group. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com notes (via Twitter) that means Kayvon Webster as well. The 2013 third-round pick’s a bit of an enigma in being buried behind Denver’s dominant trio for three seasons, but he’s in line to start in Los Angeles now. Robey-Coleman and Webster are now the top two candidates to play opposite Trumaine Johnson.
  • LeSean McCoy weighed in on the deal and praised his outgoing teammate while tabbing Matthews — his teammate in Philly for a year — as an inferior receiver to Watkins. “If you compare the two, it’s obvious you can agree who is better,” the Bills running back said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. McCoy added (via Rodak) he can relate to Watkins being traded for a player who he’s “probably better than” from the Eagles-Bills 2015 swap of McCoy and Kiko Alonso.
  • Watkins was due a $2.4MM bonus last week, according to OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald (on Twitter). He notes unless there was an unreported adjustment in the contract, the bonus was the Bills’, and not the Rams’, responsibility.

Bills Acquire WR Jordan Matthews

The Bills have announced their second major trade of the day, as they’ve acquired wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick from the Eagles in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby.Jordan Matthews (vertical)

[RELATED: Bills Trade Sammy Watkins To Rams]

Matthews, 26, will presumably step into the void left by Sammy Watkins, whom Buffalo shipped to the Rams earlier today. However, Matthews isn’t the outside receiver that is Watkins, as Matthews has spent the majority of his career in the slot. In fact, he’s a relatively similar player to veteran pass-catcher Anquan Boldin, whom the Bills also now employ. Matthews has been a productive offensive weapon through his three-year career, averaging 75 receptions, nearly 900 yards, and six touchdowns per season.

Of course, Matthews’ contract status also plays a role in this trade, and was likely a key factor in the Eagles trading him away. Matthews is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and now that Philadelphia has Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins in tow, the club had made no effort towards extending Matthews’ contract. Buffalo, on the other hand, should be expected to work towards a multi-year agreement with Matthews, as the franchise tag is too expensive for a slot receiver.

By dealing Matthews, the Eagles have finally acquired a young, experienced cornerback, the defensive item their roster has been craving most. Philadelphia ranked second in DVOA against the pass in 2016, but that was largely due to its excellent pass rush. While the Eagles added Sidney Jones in the second round of the draft, he may not be ready to play immediately as he returns from injury. Before Darby came aboard, Philadelphia’s top defensive back options included a lackluster cast of Patrick Robinson, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, and Rasul Douglas.

The Bills are instituting a new defensive scheme under head coach Sean McDermott, so it’s possible Buffalo didn’t view Darby as a fit. But the former second-round pick has been productive through two NFL campaigns, although his Pro Football Focus graded tumbled from 85.9 to 62.7 (68th among corners) in 2016. Darby is eminently affordable, as he’s under team control for two more seasons with base salaries hovering around $1MM each year.

Through each of their trades executed today, the Bills have acquired a vast amount of 2018 draft pick capital. Buffalo already owned two first-round picks next year as a result of the Patrick Mahomes draft day deal, and now has received an additional second- and third-round selection for next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Brees, Packers, Bills, Jets

This is a contract year for quarterback Drew Brees, and if he and the Saints don’t reach an agreement on a new deal by next offseason, the franchise tag probably won’t be an option for the team. Tagging Brees would leave the Saints with an unpalatable $43.09MM cap hit for 2017. Given that fact, the future Hall of Famer might have the leverage to land a fully guaranteed, multiyear contract by next winter, Andrew Brandt of The MMQB.com suggests. In the meantime, the 37-year-old is slated to play 2016 on a $19.75MM salary and count a quarterback-leading $30MM against New Orleans’ cap. As of last month, multiple sources projected Brees’ next pact would be a four-year, $95MM accord featuring $65MM in guarantees.

More from around the NFL:

  • The Packers’ signing of Julius Peppers in 2014 was the beginning of their shift toward pursuing hybrid linebackers with “elephant” body types, details Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Along with the 6-foot-7, 296-pound Peppers, the rest of the Packers’ prominent linebackers – Clay Matthews, Datone Jones, Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott, and rookies Kyler Fackrell and Dean Lowry – range from 6-3 to 6-6 in height and 245 to 296 in weight, and each member of the group has long arms. “The advantage is when you do have some bigger guys they have the ability to be either an inside or outside pass rusher in pass situations,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers told Silverstein.
  • Bills head coach Rex Ryan, known for getting the best out of cornerbacks, has a potential shutdown option on his hands in second-year man Ronald Darby, Kevin Patra of NFL.com contends. The 2015 second-round pick from Florida State was sensational in his first taste of NFL action, racking up 68 tackles and two sacks while taking home defensive rookie of the year honors from Pro Football Focus. Darby drew the fifth-most targets in the league (107), but just 50.5 percent of those passes went for completions, per Patra. Further, he allowed a 67.0 passer rating against, thereby turning opposing quarterbacks into something resembling the 2015 version of Peyton Manning. Going forward, Darby will need to improve on deep routes and make more plays, notes Patra, who expects QBs to test him less.
  • Versatile safety Marcus Gilchrist reminds the Jets of Cardinals superstar Tyrann Mathieu, writes Brian Costello of the New York. Head coach Todd Bowles is familiar with Mathieu from his stint as Arizona’s defensive coordinator, and while Gilchrist isn’t as effective, he’s still a significant asset. After leaving San Diego for the Jets in March 2015, Gilchrist’s first season with Gang Green was a clear success. The 27-year-old played all but five of the Jets’ 1,053 defensive snaps, picked up three INTs and ranked as PFF’s 19th-best safety.

AFC East Notes: Fitz, Gronk, Gilmore, Darby

There still isn’t movement on a potential deal between the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and it doesn’t seem like things will change heading into minicamp, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Talks could be at a stalemate given that New York reportedly isn’t comfortable offering Fitzpatrick a one-year deal worth $12MM, while Fitzpatrick himself is content to wait out the club in the hopes of landing a better deal. Still, it’s hard to buy that Gang Green will be comfortable entering the season with Geno Smith as their starter, and with so few clubs around the NFL looking for quarterback help, the Jets seem like the best option for Fitzpatrick at this point in the offseason.

Here’s more from the AFC East…

  • Rob Gronkowski was present at the Patriots‘ workout today after not attending last week’s sessions, tweets Rapoport. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, New England was simply being cautious by holding Gronk out of last week’s workout, as the tight end is dealing with an undisclosed injury (but one that doesn’t figure to be a long-term ailment).
  • Though no extension between the Bills and Stephon Gilmore is on the verge of being signed, the star cornerback is expected to report to minicamp this week, news that Rapoport confirms (via Twitter). Gilmore himself tweeted that he’s only attending camp to prevent being fined, and Rapoport says that Gilmore’s presence probably won’t do much to help contract talks along.
  • Fellow Bills cornerback Ronald Darby can’t be extended for two more years, but he’s aware of how much defensive back salaries are rising, writes Vic Carrucci of the Buffalo News. The Bills, in some respects, think Darby is a better player than Gilmore, which could be one reason they’re reluctant to extend Gilmore. With a Darby deal to worry about down the road, signing Gilmore now might not be the right call.
  • The Bills are working out former Maryland offensive lineman Andrew Zeller, reports Josh Reed of WIVB (Twitter link). Zeller, who made 12 starts at guard for the Terrapins last season, was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent, but was waived last week.
  • The Bills agreed to terms with former Rex Ryan pupil, signing ex-Jets defensive end Leger Douzable to a contract earlier today. Douzable, 30, will work as a five-technique in Buffalo’s 3-4 scheme.

Bills Sign Second-Round Pick Ronald Darby

The Bills announced that they have signed cornerback Ronald Darby, their final unsigned draft pick, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. Buffalo took Darby in the second round.

Darby was the Bills’ top pick in this year’s draft since they sent their 2015 first-round choice to the Browns in the Sammy Watkins trade of 2014. The Florida State product is a truly freakish athlete with a wildly impressive resume. In high school, he won the 100- and 200-meter dashes in the Maryland 3A state championships and was also part of the gold medal-winning USA medley relay team at the 2011 World Youth Championships in France.

Prior to the draft, Mike Mayock of the NFL Network praised Darby’s “world-class” speed but noted that he needs to learn not to grab his opponent going downfield.

Sturm On Cowboys: Peterson, Trades, Draft

Bob Sturm took questions from Cowboys fans in his Wednesday chat for the Dallas Morning News.

Here are some of the highlights from his Q&A session:

On whether it would be a good idea to trade their second-round pick for Adrian Peterson:

“I think so. Again, I don’t like it at all. They had 3 choices this offseason for RB (maybe 4). Choice 1 was pay the NFL rushing champion to stay here (which he wanted to do). They passed. Choice 2 would be take a RB and although he is unproven, he will cost about $4m for 4 years (or $1m per season). So, the price is worth it. Choice 3 is to trade a top pick AND pay Peterson “Murray money”. This makes no sense because of age, work load, and the fact he costs you a 1st or 2nd round pick when Murray would not cost you any of that. Choice 4 is to use McFadden and Randle and see how that works. Peterson, to me, is the worst choice. However, he is Adrian Peterson and that is plenty exciting for all involved, I admit..”

On the difficulties in completing a trade for Peterson:

“There are many reasons why this trade is difficult, and I admit that one of them might be history. But, the bigger one is that the Cowboys have done everything possible to give all leverage away on this deal. They have practically telegraphed their desires publicly for a year, and this doesn’t assist in helping you get a cheap deal. Most of the principles in the Walker deal are long gone, but they know Jerry deep inside needs Peterson. Again, I don’t think the Cowboys should consider this.”

On options at cornerback in the draft:

“Well, there are a lot of really strong corners in that range. I agree that Trae Waynes and Kevin Johnson are gone. Marcus Peters is likely gone too. I would take Johnson and Peters if they are there. [Byron] Jones from UConn is next with [Eric] Rowe from Utah and [Ronald] Darby from Florida State for me. Each have their pluses and minuses. Jones might be a better athlete than a player – with his Combine performance being so much of his buzz. Rowe looks like a much better safety to me and Darby is a track guy who isn’t the best tackler ever. But, all of them are solid players.”

On whether the team should trade down from No. 27:

“One reason I don’t dive into the mock draft business is because I have found that trying to figure out what ONE franchise is planning to do is next to impossible. Trying to figure out what ALL of the franchises are doing is so absurd it is a waste of everyone’s time. That said, I would agree that those are reasonable ideas as are a few others – NYJ come to mind to get back into Round 1. But, when I look at who did deals last year, they often were not telegraphed and that is how it usually works. So, I still believe the trade-down is ideal, but finding the partner requires value issues, need issues, and the Cowboys agreeing with us that they need to trade out of #27.”

On whether he would prefer an interior lineman or edge rusher in the first round:

I think they will look at both of those spots – as well as CB, RB, and LB – try to place values on each and try to take the BPA – best player available. I think you need both badly as DT is thin for penetrating forces and DE is likely weak unless you are going to do a longterm deal with Hardy. So, Malcom Brown or Eddie Goldman are great there – but so are so many of the edge guys. Look and see what #27 has.”

On where in the draft the Cowboys will find their running back:

It seems to me that if you want a RB, you better plan on Round 2 being the place. And as we mentioned already, that is still not a great guarantee. Round 3 may get picked over before it gets to 91. I suspect they have their plan – which, unfortunately, may include trading one of those top picks to Minnesota.

I have 5 RBs on the board in the 1st 2 rounds. Gordon and Gurley in Round 1, [Jay] Ajayi, [Tevin] Coleman, and Duke Johnson in Round 2. But, that view may not get them to pick #60 in Round 2. In fact, I am expecting that Ajayi and Coleman might be gone before #50. This is why I would prefer to trade back from #27 and pick up a 2nd and a 3rd, use the 2nd to get my RB and then have #60 and 2 3rds to work on my defense. But, if I can’t trade back, the other option is to use #27 on defense, then use #60 and #91 to move up and try to get into the late 40s to grab on of those 5 players. It is difficult to predict how this might work out.”