It’s no secret that the San Francisco 49ers are looking for a cornerback this offseason. Ahkello Witherspoon was benched twice in the final few weeks. Emmanuel Moseley was good, but he’s still young, and the growing pains you go through with inexperience aren’t going away anytime soon.
PFF went through each team in the NFL to find a ‘perfect match’ in free agency. For the 49ers, they believe former Philadelphia Eagle cornerback Ronald Darby is the best fit for San Francisco:
The 49ers are another team that is tight on cap space and still has players to worry about re-signing, such as Emmanuel Sanders, Jimmie Ward and Arik Armstead. That means any outside additions will have to come in the value market, and Darby’s 2019 season should depreciate his value to the point that cap-strapped teams could take a chance on him. The Florida State product was one of the worst cornerbacks in the league last season, earning a coverage grade of 41.0 with the Eagles, but his history suggests that to be an outlier rather than the norm. In his four earlier seasons, Darby had never graded below 68.3. The 49ers could take a shot on him as their outside cornerback opposite Richard Sherman and hope that prior form returns.
I’m all for adding value. The 26-year-old cornerback has the speed the 49ers seem to value, but once you get past that, there isn’t much of an argument to sign Darby.
As a rookie, Darby played 914 snaps. Since then, he’s trending the wrong direction. This is the number of snaps Darby has played since his rookie season: 822, 580,542, 506. Darby has never been able to shake the injury bug, and it’s naive to think he’ll magically get healthy. On the field, as PFF cited, Darby was getting torched left and right in 2019. His 48% success rate is good enough for 123rd, and 10.6 yards per pass was 187th in the NFL. If that wasn’t enough, tackling has long been an issue for Darby. He’s not a physical player. Darby missed a tackle 22% of the time last season. For reference, Richard Sherman missed on 13% of his attempts, while Moseley missed on 9.8% of his attempts. Darby allowed an average of 4.6 yards after the catch, which was ranked 157th.
Other than that, he is a great fit! But seriously, I agree that the 49ers should add a veteran cornerback and/or safety, but finding the right value and fit is tricky. Darby’s injury history should scare the 49ers off, though it didn’t this time last year.