The Philadelphia Eagles have weighed the benefits of trading starting cornerback Ronald Darby this offseason, league sources tell Bleeding Green Nation.
This news should hardly be viewed as earth-shattering. The Eagles weigh the pros and cons of trading many of their players given that Eagles EVP of football operations Howie Roseman is one of the most active executives in the league. No team has executed more player trades since 2010. NFL insider Jason La Canfora recently said he would be “shocked if the Eagles don’t make at least two more trades” before Week 1.
Another reason why this information doesn’t come as a surprise is because Darby has purportedly been on the trade block already this offseason. It started back in March when NFL insider Chris Mortensen suggested one of the Eagles’ defensive backs could be moved for a third-round pick. Mort didn’t specifically mention Darby by name (and no other reports have, until now) but one could easily deduce he was the player that was being discussed.
Even if he remains with the Eagles through the 2018 season, it’s very possible that Darby won’t be a long-term fixture in Philadelphia. Darby’s rookie contract is up after this year and the 2015 second-round pick could draw a big market in free agency. Teams are always looking for starting corners and Darby has a good track record of experience.
The Eagles, meanwhile, might not be able to retain Darby since they are limited on cap space. Philadelphia currently projects to be $30.4 million OVER the cap in 2019, which is the worst cap situation in the league. Roseman will undoubtedly find a way to make things work by shedding money, as he always does, but the Eagles won’t be without some tough decisions to make. And that cap figure doesn’t even account for the looming Carson Wentz mega-contract extension that he’ll be eligible for as early as December 31, 2018.
Even though the idea of Darby being available might seem obvious, note that the takeaway from my reporting is that the fourth-year defender isn’t viewed as an untouchable piece the Eagles are not willing to part with.
With that said, the Eagles likely won’t be in a rush to trade Darby for just any price. The 24-year-old defensive back will be a free agent after this season, yes, but he clearly has value to a team that’s trying to compete for a Super Bowl in 2018. Darby signing a big deal in free agency with another team would also potentially help Philadelphia land a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The possibility of the comp pick is important to keep in mind here when determining Darby’s trade value. Why would the Eagles trade him for, presumably, a 2019 third-round pick now when they could get one inexpensive year out of him in 2018 and a third in 2020?
It would seem, then, that the starting price for Darby would be AT LEAST a second-round pick. He’s been having a strong offseason, too, so there’s nothing that should be tanking his value.
Except, of course, the fact that he’s going to be a free agent after this year. It’s not going to be easy for a team to give up a valuable Day 2 pick for one year of a player they might not be able to re-sign.
But don’t underestimate the desperation of NFL franchises. We saw how the Minnesota Vikings reacted when Teddy Bridgewater suffered an injury right before the 2016 season: they gave the Eagles a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for Sam Bradford. The Eagles will not get THAT kind of haul for Darby, but it’s possible another team becomes desperate at corner and could be willing to part with a second-round pick.
One such team might be the Dolphins. Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently reported that the Fins are “actively and aggressively shopping for a starting cornerback because they don’t like what they’ve seen from everyone not named Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain.”
Sending Darby down south wouldn’t be the first time the Eagles traded a corner to Miami. We know Roseman and Dolphins EVP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum have a trading relationship from the Byron Maxwell/Kiko Alonso deal.
If Darby does get moved, the Eagles would be making the trade in part because they feel very good about what they have in their young secondary. Returning starter Jalen Mills has arguably been one of the best players in camp this year. 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones hasn’t dominated but he’s shown potential. 2018 fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox has recently been receiving first team nickel corner reps in practice. Despite some ups and downs, Rasul Douglas has some NFL experience under his belt and has drawn praise from the coaching staff. De’Vante Bausby has shown the makings of being a rosterable player and D.J. Killings is on the bubble as well. Undrafted rookie free agent Chandon Sullivan could wind up on the practice squad.
The recent Maddox development is especially interesting. If the rookie ends up starting in the slot, where does that leaves Jones? He’d be the fourth cornerback in line for playing time with Darby and Mills starting on the outside. Trading Darby would allow Jones to take over on the outside with Maddox staying in the slot.
Ultimately, though, my guess is that Darby WON’T be dealt because his value as a member of 2018 Eagles will be higher than what Philadelphia will be offered for him in a trade. I think the Eagles like what they’ve seen out of Darby this summer and feel good about having him for at least one more year. They’ll live with him walking in free agency, if it comes to that, since they’ll likely be able to get a compensatory pick in return.
Still, I wouldn’t rule out a trade entirely given that the Eagles could be open to it at the right price.
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