Eagles get: CB Ronald Darby
Bills get: WR Jordan Matthews, 2018 third-round draft pick
There were reports the Eagles would be open to trading Jordan Matthews as far back as February, so it certainly comes as no surprise the club finally pulled the trigger. That being said, I’m not sure anybody could’ve anticipated quite this level of return.
A second-round draft pick from Florida State in 2015, Ronald Darby made 29 starts for the Bills in two NFL seasons. However, after a solid rookie campaign in which he was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team and Pro Football Focus’ Defensive Rookie of the Year, Darby regressed in 2016, apparently falling out of favor in Buffalo.
Darby went from a 78.3 opponents’ passer rating in coverage – 17th out of 79 qualifying players corners – to a 104.8 in ’16 – 69th out of 79. The Eagles are banking on a resurgence.
Cornerback was clearly the team’s greatest need, and there was a clamoring to do something. Darby is better than most, if not all of the suggested targets.
Darby is listed at 5-foot-11, 193 pounds. He has 137 tackles, 33 pass deflections and 2 interceptions in 29 games.
As for Matthews, there are many who were critical of the fourth-year wideout. He was miscast as a No. 1 receiver, dropped too many passes and was pushing Nelson Agholor down the depth chart. After the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and with Mack Hollins and Marcus Johnson also having strong training camps, the Eagles could afford to part with somebody.
There’s no denying Matthews’ production – 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons – or work ethic. Unfortunately, he was in the final year of his contract, and there was a logjam at the position.
From all of those perspectives, the trade makes sense. The fact that the Eagles had to throw in a third-round pick is where the deal loses some of its luster.
Darby is under contract for two more years, which is perhaps where the Bills get off asking for more out of the swap. Otherwise, they’re comparable talents – both former second-round choices, both stellar production early in their careers, and both coming off of down years. In that sense, you could make the case this should’ve been straight up.
The pick hurts the deal, but doesn’t ruin it. Of course, even a down year for Matthews was 73 receptions, 804 yards and 3 touchdowns, so he’ll likely continue to produce regardless. Whether it will have been worth it or not depends entirely on whether Darby rebounds and becomes a consistent starting cornerback for the Eagles.
If Darby does that, this grade could be substantially better – and nobody will care about that third-round pick.