ASHBURN, Va. -- Ronald Darby wanted to come home to the DMV area for three reasons. One, to prove himself once again. Two, to play for a team he grew up rooting for.
And three, to stay healthy. He accomplished all three.
Darby signed a one-year deal at $4 million to play in the shadows of Oxon Hill, Md. where he grew up, leaving the Eagles, who he played three largely injury-filled seasons for.
Now, he's a free agent again.
Darby played 1,073 defensive snaps in 2020, starting all 16 regular-season games and the playoff loss to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Darby racked up 57 total tackles while missing four. He was targeted 92 times in coverage per ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) while allowing 50 receptions, a passer rating of 87.6 and 14.6 yards per reception.
He had 15 pass breakups but no interceptions. Critics might suggest it's hard to play that much and not have a takeaway as a corner, but that's what happened.
Darby allowed four touchdowns in 2020, including two in the playoff game, where the Bucs talented trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown feasted in large part.
Overall, Darby graded out a 76.0/100 per PFF and a 75.9 in coverage with a 69.6 run defense grade.
Those numbers aren't anywhere close to lights-out but they are worthy of interest and a new contract.
The question should not be "if''; it should be "how much?''
“He’s a good young man. He’s been able to stay healthy for us, which when he’s been healthy, he’s played good football," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio mentioned late in the year. "That was the biggest thing. He’s been nicked up a few times and wasn’t always able to be out there (in his career). ...
"He’s been dependable. He’s been productive. He’s been a good teammate. He’s been a great addition for us. I’m glad that we have him. It’s been a really good year for him.”
Darby is only 27 and has a calculated market value of $9.2 million per year on a four-year, $36.8 million dollar contract per Spotrac.com.
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It's reasonable to think that Darby deserves four years but with a player of his injury history, that could be a significant roll of the dice.
Was last year's good health news a trend? That's what Washington will have to weigh.
In our opinion, he is a must-keep because even with a very good defensive line, there were plenty of times where Darby had to hold up in coverage and he was able to.
Anyone better than him is likely to cost more, and a rookie needs time to develop. (Another factor: Fabian Moreau is also a free agent and unlikely to come back. )
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Washington could draft a corner in the first round, as they were recently mocked to do, but given WFT's needs, we think that is a risky plan going into a critical 2021 season. Less risky: An affordable bet on Darby.