It was not too long ago when Ronald Darby was considered one of the better young cornerbacks in the NFL.
A second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2015, Darby excelled as a rookie, and he followed that up with a solid sophomore campaign. But after being traded to the Eagles in 2017, Darby struggled to stay on the field. The cornerback missed seven games in 2017 due to an ankle injury and tore his ACL the following year, costing him eight more contests. The Eagles re-signed Darby to a one-year deal in 2019, and the cornerback missed another five games dealing with a hip injury.
After truly hitting the open market for the first time in his career, Darby signed to a cheap one-year, $4 million deal with the Redskins, the cornerback's second consecutive one-year contract. Darby said he expected the market to be what it was, and the 26-year-old joins the Burgundy and Gold feeling like he has something to prove.
"Every year, even if you played good last year, you’re going to always have something to prove, whether you played good or bad," Darby said. "This year I go in and I’ve always got something to prove, but of course I feel like I’ve got a lot more to prove due to the fact this is my second one-year deal and things like that. So my main focus is to take care of my body and stay healthy, and go out there and make plays."
Darby understands why he was forced to sign another one-year deal. He knows he has to put a full season together of good football -- while staying healthy -- in order for a team to commit to him on a long-term basis. Although his new contract doesn't guarantee him anything past the 2020 season, the cornerback is confident he can return to the solid cornerback he was a few seasons ago.
"As the corner I know I am, I’m a great corner," Darby said. "I had to battle obstacles and stuff like that, and at the end of the day whether you’re hurt or good you still got to go out there and perform. You can’t always have excuses. I know that I can be the person that I am, that I’ve shown."
There were several factors that stood out to Darby when the opportunity to join the Redskins presented itself, with one being able to play for Ron Rivera. The new Redskins coach has an excellent reputation around the league and is one of the better defensive minds in the sport.
Darby explained that he didn't have much of a relationship with Rivera prior to being signed, but believes there's a ton of mutual respect between the two. Rivera's defenses have also produced one thing that stood out to new Redskins defensive back: cornerbacks play well, and they get paid.
"I just know him from Carolina," Darby said. "I believe it was last year or the year before last he gave me a shout-out saying he respected how I play and things like that before we played Carolina like two years ago. His defenses have been good, corners that have played in his defense got paid."
The Panthers top cornerback from a season ago, James Bradberry, just signed a three-year, $45 million with the New York Giants. Of course, there's also Josh Norman, who earned himself a five-year, $75 million deal with the Redskins after excelling under Rivera with the Panthers in 2015.
Like his new secondary mate Sean Davis, Darby also grew up in the DMV area and was a Redskins fan when he was younger. The chance to play for his hometown team was certainly something that stood out to the cornerback. But the opportunity to face Philadelphia, his old team, twice a year was another added bonus to signing with Washington, too.
"It's crazy. I'm grateful for the opportunity in Washington," Darby said. "I'm from the DMV area and grew up a Redskins fan, so I get to come back home and play for the team I grew up loving. I get to go against my old teammates twice a year. That'll be fun."
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