On August 11th, the Eagles acquired cornerback Ronald Darby in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Get to know the newest Eagle.
Howie Roseman wrestled with a tough situation.
On one hand, he had a "historically productive" wide receiver in Jordan Matthews, who is just one of five players in NFL history to have at least 65 catches and 800 yards in each of his first three seasons. However, the Eagles overhauled the wide receiver group this offseason between a new position coach in Mike Groh and players in both free agency (Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith) and the draft (Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson).
On the other, he was presented with an opportunity to bolster a young cornerback group that could grow and develop together. The Eagles invested a 2016 late-round pick in Jalen Mills that has paid off. This year, both second-day selections were used on the position in Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas.
The Buffalo Bills offered Ronald Darby, a 23-year-old former second-round pick with 29 starts in his first two seasons. Darby was the runner-up in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year vote in 2015. But Roseman and the Eagles would have to part with Matthews, who is also well-respected in the locker room, and a 2018 draft pick in return.
Roseman agreed to the deal and it was officially announced Friday afternoon.
"This was a unique opportunity. We were not shopping Jordan Matthews," Roseman said.
"You look around the league and it is a corner-deficient league. It's hard to find those guys. It's hard to find guys who have been solid starters in the league and can play at a high level and teams that have them aren't really ready to move them."
Darby is now a part of the youth movement at cornerback with Mills (23 years old), Jones (21 years old), Douglas (almost 22 years old), and second-year corner C.J. Smith (24 years old).
"He's got rare speed," Roseman said of Darby. "His production on the ball, he doesn't have a high interception number, but his (pass breakup) number is incredibly high. He's played a variety of coverages. He won a National Championship at FSU."
In scouting Darby, Roseman specifically pointed out how the Bills played the NFC East in 2015. The Eagles saw how the new cornerback fared against some of the receivers they will see twice a season. Darby has 32 pass breakups and two interceptions in his career.
Think back to the successful Eagles teams of the 2000s. Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor were the starting corners before giving way to Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, and then Brown and Asante Samuel. The Eagles have invested the resources to cultivate a deep, talented backfield for years to come.
"We're just trying to figure out the best way to build our team to consistently compete and a big part of that is trying to get the corner position right for the long term," Roseman said. "That really was the genesis of this trade."