Eagles bring back Ronald Darby on 1-year deal

Eagles bring back Ronald Darby on 1-year deal

The Eagles are bringing back one of their top free agents. Ronald Darby is signing a one-year deal to return to Philadelphia in 2019. 

According to NFL Network, the contract is worth $8.5 million. 

Darby, 25, has spent the last two seasons with the Eagles, but is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered in 2018. He played nine games in 2018 after playing just eight regular-season games in 2017 because of a dislocated ankle. 

When healthy, Darby might just be the Eagles’ most talented corner, but he’ll return to a really crowded defensive backfield. It’s unclear whether or not Darby will be ready for the start of the 2019 season. But he projects as a starter in their defense when he’s healthy. 

If Darby isn’t ready for the start of the year, the Eagles still have Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc. It’s a crowded position group. 

This deal will give the Eagles one more year of Darby while trying to figure out the futures of all their even younger and talented cornerbacks. Late last year, Jim Schwartz made a point to say that Jones played well in the nickel spot early in the season. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Eagles revert back to their early-2018 starters: Mills, Darby and Jones. But now they have a ton of depth and competition. 

The Eagles were decimated by injury at the corner spot last season, but will enter 2019 with plenty of depth. But it is important to remember that Darby and Mills are coming off of significant injuries. 

Darby reportedly visited Kansas City last night, but apparently liked the idea of coming back to the Eagles for one more season to prove he’s healthy before testing the open market again this year. Darby was clearly one of the Eagles’ top free agents this offseason. Had he signed elsewhere, he would have likely counted toward the compensatory pick formula; but the Eagles prioritized keeping the player. 

The Eagles originally acquired Darby during training camp in 2017 for Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick. He started at the beginning of that season, disclosed his ankle in a nasty injury but was able to return. 

In 17 regular-season games with the Eagles, Darby has four interceptions and 21 passes defensed. 

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NFL mock draft 2019: Eagles snag offensive lineman in first round

NFL mock draft 2019: Eagles snag offensive lineman in first round

I’m not moving off the idea that the Eagles will take a lineman with their first-round pick on Thursday night. 

I am still leaning toward a defensive lineman at 25, but I think OL is definitely in play too. 

Here’s another possibility of how things could go for the Eagles over the entire seven rounds:

Round 1 (25): Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
Before you start yelling at me, saying Ford will be off the board by the time the Eagles are on the clock, let me say this: You might be right. I think Ford is a no-doubt-about-it first-round pick and I’d agree there’s a good chance he’s gone in the teens. So maybe it takes a modest trade up. I’d be on board with that. And if he falls to 25, that would be great for the Eagles. 

Ford offers real versatility after playing guard and tackle during his time in Norman. Joe Douglas wouldn’t say last week if they saw Ford as a guard or tackle, but said they know where he’d begin. That means they’ve at least thought about him in an Eagles uniform. 

Ford would come in and be able to play and likely start at guard. He could be at right guard if Brandon Brooks isn’t all the way back from his Achilles tear or he could simply beat out Isaac Seumalo for the starting left guard spot. Then, if Jason Peters can’t stay on the field, he could possibly even play there too. At the very least, he could provide some depth as a rookie before growing into a starting role. If Ford is gone and the Eagles stay at this pick, Dalton Risner could be another potential first-round offensive lineman with versatility. 

Round 2 (53): Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
My biggest problem with the possibility of taking a safety in the first round is that there might be more value in taking one in the second. Savage is one of the guys who might still be on the board at 53. 

Savage is sort of a hybrid type of defensive back who could play corner and safety. We all know how much the Eagles value versatility. The most intriguing part of Savage’s game is his coverage ability; that’s something the Eagles love in their safeties. At 5-foot-11, 198 pounds, Savage is undersized, but I don’t care. He ran a ridiculous 4.36 at the combine to go along with a vertical jump of 39.5 and a broad of 126. He tested well across the board.

The Eagles could use some safety help. Malcolm Jenkins isn’t getting any younger and there’s no guarantee Rodney McLeod is back for the 2020 season. It would be a perfect time to draft his replacement and that replacement could be the third safety in 2019. 

Round 2 (57): Zach Allen, DE, Boston College 
I get that Allen isn’t the most exciting or athletic defensive end prospect in this draft, but he’s a solid and consistent college player and at 6-4, 281, would be a fit in the Eagles’ 4-3. He doesn’t explode off the screen with athleticism, but he’s an instinctive player who had 16 1/2 sacks and 40 1/2 TFLs in his last three years at BC. 

Douglas really seems to value high-effort players and Allen is definitely one of those. Watching him, it’s clear he doesn’t give up on plays and is always finding a way to make an impact without being a tremendous athlete. In other years, I think he’d be a higher pick, but the depth of this class has pushed him into the later stages of the second round. 

Defensive end is a need for the Eagles in this draft. Derek Barnett is a young starter but Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are on the wrong side of 30. Michael Bennett is gone. No one knows if Chris Long will be back this season. And Josh Sweat is still an unknown. The Eagles need an infusion of youth at one of the most important spots on the field. 

Round 4 (127): Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia 
The Eagles don’t have an immediate need for a starting receiver, so maybe they take a player with a lot of upside, a guy who is still learning the position, but could end up being special. That’s what Hardman is to me. 

He’s just 5-10 and 187 pounds, but he ran a 4.33 in the 40 at the combine and is an explosive option on Day 2 or 3. Still learning the position, Hardman caught 60 balls for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017-18 but was also used as a gadget player. He also returned punts and kicks, which is another big positive for an Eagles team that doesn’t have either right now. 

Receiver is an under-the-radar need for the Eagles right now. DeSean Jackson is 32, Alshon Jeffery is 29 and Nelson Agholor is back on a one-year contract. And after that, the Eagles don’t really have much depth at all. Hardman would instantly become a depth/rotational/gadget player, who could possibly take over for Nelly in 2020. And he would immediately become their best option as a returner. 

Round 4 (138): Daniel Wise, DT, Kansas
In four years at KU, he finished with 17 sacks and 43 TFLs as a disruptive interior pass rusher. He comes from a football family (he’s the brother of Deatrich Wise Jr. and son of Deatrich Wise Sr.) and had a solid college career. 

The Eagles are set with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson as their starters, but they could definitely use more depth and a rotational player. Wise would play immediately in a reserve role. 

Round 5 (163): Karan Higdon, RB, Michigan 
The Eagles need a running back, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them wait it out until later in the draft. Higdon didn’t catch the ball out of the backfield much but rushed for over 1,100 yards in 2018 and had a career average of 5.6 yards per carry with 27 touchdowns during his time at Michigan. 

He’s just 5-9, 206 pounds, but offers pretty good explosiveness and is pretty tough for his size. 

The Eagles added Jordan Howard but that shouldn’t stop them from drafting a running back. Higdon would need to prove himself as a pass protector and pass catcher before he could get on the field for third downs. 

Round 6 (197): Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington 
Definitely a new-school linebacker at 6-0, 230 pounds, but he’s quick and is always all over the field. 

If he doesn’t play defense, his athleticism would allow him to become a dynamic special teams player from Day 1. Even if that’s all he ever became, that would be fine for a sixth-round pick. And he has more upside than that in the right scheme. 

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Eagles bring back Tim Jernigan at a dramatically lower price

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Eagles bring back Tim Jernigan at a dramatically lower price

Tim Jernigan is back and with a much lower contract.

The Eagles, who cut ties with Jernigan in March, re-signed the gifted but frustrating 26-year-old defensive tackle on Thursday to a one-year deal.

Exact terms aren’t available yet, but Jernigan will be earning dramatically less than he was scheduled to on his original contract, which would have paid him $11 million this season.

When the Eagles cut ties with him early last month by declining to pick up his option, it cleared $7 million in cap space but cost the Eagles $6 million in dead money.

They still will carry that dead money but won’t have to pay Jernigan like an elite player.

The Eagles initially acquired Jernigan in a trade with the Ravens two years ago this month. After he played very well the first half of the season, the Eagles signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract.

But a mysterious offseason injury that he never publically explained kept Jernigan off the field last year until late November, and he wound up playing only 45 snaps during the regular season and 58 more in the playoffs.

Even when the Eagles cut ties with Jernigan, they never closed the door on him returning, and when he was unable to land the long-term deal he wanted, the Eagles didn’t hesitate to bring him back.

Jernigan, originally the Ravens' second-round pick in 2014, can be a dominating player when healthy, and if he’s able to regain his form from early in 2017, he gives the Eagles terrific depth on the interior of the defensive line along with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson.

Does this change the Eagles’ draft philosophy at No. 25 tonight?

Not at all. This is a very deep defensive line draft, and the Eagles are not going to pass by a potentially elite defensive lineman just because they signed an injury-plagued Jernigan to a one-year deal.

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