Ronald Darby

West Rumors: Broncos, Cards, Hicks, Hawks

The Bears briefly entertained the prospect of trading standout defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, but they reconsidered and brought the former All-Pro back for his sixth season in Chicago. Shortly after free agency began, the Bears gave Hicks permission to find a trade partner. Nothing materialized, but the Chargers were monitoring this situation through the preseason, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Hicks, 31, has a history with Bolts HC Brandon Staley, who was on the Bears’ defensive staff — as outside linebackers coach — under Vic Fangio from 2017-18. The 11th-year veteran’s contract expires at season’s end. Should the Bears falter against a tough October schedule, Hicks could be a name to watch as the Nov. 2 trade deadline approaches. The $7MM-plus left on his 2021 salary would be a difficult accommodation for most teams, but that number will drop closer to $5MM by the deadline. A groin injury sidelined Hicks in Week 5, but he remains on the Bears’ active roster.

Here is the latest from the West divisions:

  • Staying on the trade front, the Broncos received inquiries on their two contract-year corners — Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan — along with Ronald Darby. The veteran defenders came up in talks leading up to the season, but new Denver GM George Paton set a fairly high asking price. The Broncos sought a third- or fourth-round pick in a deal for one of their vets, Fowler adds, scuttling talks. The Saints made a strong push for Fuller, which came months after New Orleans’ aggressive pursuit of Denver’s No. 9 overall pick — which was used to take Patrick Surtain II. While Denver has made multiple deadline deals in recent years, involving receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it would likely take a tumble out of contention for the team to deal from its corner surplus.
  • The Cardinals are likely to be without Chandler Jones as they attempt to move their unbeaten run to 6-0. While vaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 can return after two negative tests 24 hours apart, Kliff Kingsbury said Jones is experiencing symptoms and that it would be “a stretch” for him to play against the Browns, via SI.com’s Howard Balzer (on Twitter). Jones is vaccinated. News of the veteran pass rusher’s positive test circulated Tuesday, creating a narrow window for him to recover in time.
  • Arizona will also be without center Rodney Hudson. The acclaimed O-lineman is battling a rib injury, and Kingsbury declared him out Wednesday. Seventh-year pro Max Garcia will step in for the Cards’ Pro Bowl snapper.
  • Blake Bortles auditioned for the Seahawks on Tuesday, but Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes they are not expected to sign him (Twitter link). Seattle instead re-signed Danny Etling, who was with the team from August 2020 to August of ’21. Etling is currently on the Seahawks’ practice squad. Bortles has not been able to land a steady gig since the 2019 season, when he backed up Jared Goff with the Rams.
  • Pete Carroll said Tre Flowers did not request to be waived, Condotta adds (via Twitter). The Flowers transaction went through Wednesday, so a claim would surface by Thursday afternoon — if a team is to claim the fourth-year cornerback. The Seahawks have used former second-round pick Sidney Jones in Flowers’ place in the past two games.

Broncos Activate CB Ronald Darby

SATURDAY: The Broncos are activating Darby from IR. Though Surtain is questionable for Week 5, Denver might have its top four cornerbacks available against Pittsburgh. But the team will be without another of its pass catchers going forward. The Broncos placed tight end Albert Okwuegbunam on IR Saturday. The second-year tight end, who missed most of last season with an ACL tear, is dealing with a hamstring ailment.

WEDNESDAY: Amid a rough stretch on the health front, the Broncos received some positive injury news Wednesday. Ronald Darby returned to practice, starting his 21-day window for a re-emergence from injured reserve.

The Broncos placed Darby on IR following a Week 1 hamstring injury, depleting the team’s cornerback surplus. But the former Philadelphia and Washington corner may be on track to return at first chance this week in Pittsburgh. Teams have three weeks to activate players designated to return or they revert to season-ending IR.

Although the Broncos signed Kyle Fuller, they inked Darby to a three-year deal. Darby and Patrick Surtain II represent the team’s long-term cornerback investments. Surtain, however, has taken Darby’s place in the starting lineup and played fairly well. It will be interesting to see how the Broncos proceed with their $10MM-per-year corner and their No. 9 overall pick. Surtain did suffer a chest injury late in the Broncos’ Week 4 loss; Denver deemed its prized rookie day to day.

The Broncos have lost two more starting defenders — Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell — since Darby’s injury and finished Sunday’s loss without five offensive first-stringers, including a concussed Teddy Bridgewater.

Broncos Place CB Ronald Darby On IR

Teams inquired about Denver’s cornerback depth leading up to the season, but the Broncos will need to use it early. Denver is placing Ronald Darby on IR due to a hamstring injury, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

The free agent acquisition will miss at least three games and possibly more. Denver signed Darby to a three-year deal this offseason, one in which the franchise also added veteran Kyle Fuller on a one-year contract and used its No. 9 overall pick on Patrick Surtain II. The latter will be counted on as a potential every-down player beginning in Week 2.

This marks the latest injury setback for Darby, who carries a checkered health history. The veteran starter played 16 games last season, setting him up for a better free agency bid, but missed 20 games over the previous three years. Of Denver’s top four corners, only Darby and Surtain are signed beyond 2021.

Barring other injuries to its cornerback corps, the Broncos have the depth to withstand this setback and continue their momentum. The team returns Bryce Callahan from last season as well. However, Callahan has an extensive injury history — one that includes a full-season absence in 2019 and an IR stay to close the 2020 slate. He will team with Fuller and Surtain as the Broncos’ top three corners beginning Sunday, however. Second-year corner Michael Ojemudia is also on IR with a hamstring injury.

Additionally, the Broncos placed Jerry Jeudy on IR and promoted wide receiver Kendall Hinton and cornerback Nate Hairston from their practice squad. Jeudy suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday and will be out for several weeks.

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Teams Calling Broncos On Cornerbacks

The Broncos exited last season with no proven cornerbacks available, with Bryce Callahan injured and A.J. Bouye suspended. Teams have now observed Denver may have a surplus at this position.

Teams have called the Broncos about their depth, with Mike Klis of 9News noting some are eyeing Denver’s corner group. The Broncos cut Bouye but retained Callahan. They then added Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency and drafted Patrick Surtain II ninth overall, passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones to do so.

We’re fortunate we have a player in Surtain that can play multiple positions at a young age,” first-year GM George Paton said, via Klis. “Not many rookies can play three positions. It’s a really good problem to have. It’s Vic [Fangio‘s] problem, but you can’t have enough of those guys. Corners, a lot of them go down so we’re really happy with our depth. We have a lot of teams calling us on our depth. But we like our corners, that’s for sure.”

Denver has an interesting mix of midlevel contracts — Callahan, Darby and Fuller are each signed to deals averaging between $7-$10MM per year — at corner, along with Surtain’s rookie-deal salary. The Broncos also used a third-round pick on Michael Ojemudia last year. Nickel sets generally call for three cornerbacks, potentially leaving teams wondering if the Broncos are open to moving one of their vets, though dime sets and others in which the team’s top four corners play together are likely in Fangio’s plans.

The Broncos are using Surtain at multiple spots, and Callahan and Darby bring injury pasts creating a need for depth. Callahan ended the 2018 and 2020 seasons on IR and missed all of the 2019 season. Darby was sidelined for 20 games from 2017-19. Denver’s depth may be limited to just 2021, with Callahan and Fuller on one-year deals, but it will nonetheless be interesting to see how the Broncos proceed at this spot.

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Broncos, Ronald Darby Agree To Terms

Ronald Darby will finally land a long-term deal. After back-to-back one-year agreements, Darby will join the Broncos on a multiyear deal.

The former Bills, Eagles and Washington cornerback found success on this year’s market; he will join the Broncos on a three-year, $30MM contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Darby will receive $19.5MM fully guaranteed from Denver.

An ACL tear in his 2018 contract year submarined the former second-round pick’s value, but his latest free agency chapter will produce a seminal accord. The Broncos have been in need at corner for multiple years now, with injuries and departures gutting the team’s once-elite corps.

Denver now has Darby and Bryce Callahan as its top corners. While the Broncos should be expected to further target the position — perhaps as early as the first round of the draft — Darby represents a notable expense for the team. He is now Denver’s highest-paid corner.

After Darby spent 2019 regaining his footing, having re-signed with Philadelphia, he moved closer to re-establishing his value in Washington in 2020. The former Buffalo draftee rated as a top-30 corner, per Pro Football Focus. He played in all 16 Washington games, teaming with Kendall Fuller as part of a quality pass defense. The Broncos appear convinced Darby has surmounted his previous injury issues and will move forward with him as a key piece in their secondary.

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WFT To Re-Sign K Dustin Hopkins

The Washington Football Team will re-sign kicker Dustin Hopkins, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington (via Twitter). NFL Insider Adam Caplan reports that it will be a one-year, $2.5MM pact with $1.9MM guaranteed (Twitter link).

Hopkins had a rocky start to his pro career. After being selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, the Florida State product won Buffalo’s placekicking job as a rookie but sustained a groin injury before the season got underway. He missed the entire 2013 season and then lost his roster spot the following summer, ultimately catching on with the Saints’ taxi squad towards the end of 2014.

He lost New Orleans’ kicking battle in the summer of 2015, but he finally found a home with Washington. He has served as WFT’s kicker for the last six seasons and just wrapped up a three-year, $6.875MM contract that he signed right before free agency opened in March 2018.

Hopkins, 30, did not disappoint in his first year under the new deal, sinking nearly 89.7% of his field goal tries in 2018 and 96.2% of his PATs (both career-highs). But he regressed a bit in 2019 and cratered in 2020, struggling to a 79.4% field goal percentage last season (25th in the league). That wasn’t an ideal platform campaign, but WFT was willing to bring him back just the same.

Now that one of their own priority FAs is back in the fold, Finlay suggests that Washington could try to lock up CB Ronald Darby before free agency opens on Wednesday (Twitter link).

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Ronald Darby To Sign With Redskins

The Redskins and veteran cornerback Ronald Darby are in agreement on a one-year, $4MM deal, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Darby has spent the last three seasons with the division-rival Eagles, though all three of those seasons have been marred to some degree by injury. He played in only eight games in 2017, nine in 2018, and 11 in 2019. The 2018 season was cut short by an ACL tear, but he was at least playing at an above-average level prior to the injury. The same cannot be said for his 2019 effort, as Darby never seemed to get into a rhythm even when he was on the field.

Indeed, despite the league-wide need for corners, we had not heard of any interest in Darby before he agreed to terms with Washington. He will, however, have a good opportunity to rebuild his value in 2020. The ‘Skins signed fellow CB Kendall Fuller to a lucrative free agent pact earlier this month, but aside from the middling Fabian Moreau, there is not much depth behind Fuller.

A 2015 second-round pick of the Bills, Darby quickly established himself as a starting-caliber CB in Buffalo before being traded to Philadelphia in exchange for a third-round pick and wide receiver Jordan Matthews. He generated a fair amount of free agent interest last offseason before agreeing to return to Philadelphia on a one-year, $8.5MM pact. He will now help to fill the void left by Quinton Dunbar, whom Washington recently traded to Seattle.

In his career, the Florida State product has started 56 of a possible 57 games and has picked off eight passes. He also captured a Super Bowl ring in his first season with the Eagles.

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Eagles To Pursue CBs In Free Agency

The Eagles are expected to “go hard” after cornerbacks in free agency, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears. Philadelphia is projected to have around $44MM in cap space, and the club plans to use a big chunk of that on a CB or two.

The Broncos’ Chris Harris and the Cowboys’ Byron Jones are two of the biggest names being thrown around, and assuming they do not re-up with their current clubs, they will hit free agency with a good shot at a top-of-the-market deal (i.e. $15MM+ per year with upwards of $45MM in full guarantees). However, the Eagles will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to upgrade their CB corps, per Pauline.

Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are also eligible for free agency, and it’s unclear if the Eagles will bring back either player. They may explore a multiyear deal with Mills, who played decently after returning from injury in Week 7, but it would not be a surprise to see them part ways with Darby. Plus, as Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94WIP.com writes, Philadelphia does not consider Rasul Douglas or Sidney Jones starter material, and both are trade candidates.

As such, there will clearly be room for several cornerbacks on the Eagles’ 2020 roster. In 2019, the team finished in the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense efficiency, per Football Outsiders, and in passing yards allowed per game, so an upgrade is in order. Of course, they did their best to swing a trade for a quality CB (including Harris) at this year’s trade deadline, but they ultimately did not want to part with the type of draft capital that such a trade would have required.

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Eagles Make Handful Of Roster Moves

The Eagles made a few roster moves Tuesday. Philly is signing tight end Richard Rodgers and promoting receiver Deontay Burnett from the practice squad, the team announced. To make room on the active roster, they officially waived running back Jay Ajayi and placed cornerback Ronald Darby on injured reserve.

Rodgers was with the Eagles in camp, but was placed on injured reserve in August and released with an injury settlement shortly after. He first signed with Philadelphia in 2018 and spent last year with the team, catching only one pass in seven games. The best year of his career came back in 2015 with the Packers, when he caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns. His signing could indicate that the Eagles aren’t too optimistic about having starter Zach Ertz for their Week 17 game against the Giants. Ertz is dealing with a fractured rib that he suffered during their big win over the Cowboys.

Thanks to the victory against Dallas the Eagles are in the drivers seat, but they still need a win in their finale to clinch the NFC East. Darby went down with a hip injury, and there was some initial hope he’d be able to return for the playoffs. Obviously, that turned out not to be the case, and Rasul Douglas will slide into the starting lineup in his place. Darby is dealing with a grade 2 hip flexor strain that fortunately won’t require surgery and will only knock him out for about a month, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

We heard yesterday they were planning on waiving Ajayi, so that move was only a formality. Burnett is a 2018 UDFA from USC, who signed to their practice squad a couple of weeks ago after being cut from San Francisco’s taxi squad. Given the state of the Eagles’ depleted receiving corp, it’s highly possible he finds himself playing significant snaps.

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Eagles’ Ronald Darby Suffers Hip Injury

Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby is dealing with a strain in his hip and is expected to miss a couple weeks, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The good news is that Darby does not need surgery, so he’s looking at a recovery timetable that will be measured in weeks, rather than months. 

At minimum, it sounds like Darby will be sidelined for the Eagles’ regular season finale against the Giants. But, with some luck, he’ll be able to rejoin the team for the playoffs, if they qualify. A win against the Giants will lock the Eagles in for the NFC East title. If they lose, they’ll need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys in order to make the playoffs.

This isn’t Darby’s first time getting banged up this season, as he missed four games earlier this year when Philly’s secondary was truly in shambles. He’s struggled with health issues in each of his three seasons with the Eagles now, as he played in only nine games last year and eight in 2017.

Darby hadn’t been playing that well this season, but he’s still a full-time starter and it’s a big blow to the defense. Head coach Doug Pederson announced that Rasul Douglas will start opposite Jalen Mills in Darby’s place. Darby will be a free agent this spring, and it’s highly possible that the 2015 second-round pick of the Bills has played his last down as an Eagle.

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