- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2020

It’s not just at quarterback that Ron Rivera wants see competition.

The new Redskins coach’s first class of free agents in Washington has shown that’s he’s trying to deliver a message to the rest of the roster: Get ready to earn your role.

The team’s latest signing is another example.

The Redskins agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal Sunday with former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby, giving them a former starter who will compete for a spot on the outside.

Darby’s signing fits the competition-heavy culture that Rivera is trying to bring to the Redskins. This offseason, Washington has added a slew of players that figure to add depth to the roster and will battle for playing time.

After trading Quinton Dunbar last week to the Seattle Seahawks, the Redskins needed to address the cornerback position. Darby, 26, figures to compete for a starting role, but he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy.

Over the last three seasons with the Eagles, Darby has missed 20 of 48 possible regular-season games to injury. Most notably, Darby tore his ACL in 2018, sitting out seven games. He also ended last season on injured reserve with a hip injury.

But when healthy, Darby has proven to be a serviceable corner. He was even thought to be one of the league’s top young cornerbacks when drafted in 2015 out of Florida State. For his first two seasons, the former second-rounder starred for the Buffalo Bills before he was traded to the Eagles in 2017. That year, he enjoyed his best season as a pro — grabbing a career-high three interceptions while earning a rating as one of the league’s 20 best cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He also won a Super Bowl, helping the Eagles hold off the New England Patriots.

Then injuries struck. This is the second year in a row he’s had to settle for a one-year contract, and this year, his deal is worth less than $8.5 million deal he signed last offseason.

The cut in pay comes on the heels of a tough year.

While he picked off two passes and defended 11 more, Darby struggled in coverage — giving up 39 receptions on 62 targets for 664 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

He also missed five games due to injuries. First, a hamstring kept him sidelined for four weeks. Then he suffered a hip flexor in December that shelved him for the rest of the season.

The Eagles spent their offseason retooling their secondary, and the Redskins have done the same. Under Rivera, Washington first signed slot cornerback Kendall Fuller (four years, $40 million) and then traded Dunbar to Seattle for a fifth-round pick.

The Redskins also have Fabian Moreau, Jimmy Moreland, Danny Johnson and Greg Stroman to compete with Darby for the two starting spots on the outside. Washington is replacing both of its Week 1 starters at cornerback from last season as it released veteran Josh Norman in February, in addition to moving on from Dunbar.

Dunbar, meanwhile, shared his opinion about the team’s decision to sign Darby on Instagram, commenting underneath a post about the move.

“Great signing, but I wasn’t worth the extra (million),” Dunbar wrote, including a laughing face emoji. “Joke.”

Dunbar is set to make $3.5 million in 2020, but requested a trade from Washington after the team halted contract negotiations when Rivera was hired.

In comparison to Darby, Dunbar only gave up 29 catches for 344 yards on 52 targets across 13 games in 2019.

The Redskins have also signed a number of veterans this offseason with ties to the area. Darby, a native of Oxon Hill, Maryland, belongs in that category — joining Fuller (Virginia Tech), Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech) and Sean Davis (Maryland).

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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