Offseason rumors swirling around the Detroit Lions have primarily focused on the team adding another defensive lineman or wide receiver this summer.
SI All Lions’ Christian Booher didn’t disagree about the team’s defensive need in the trenches. But Booher also suggested the Lions consider veteran cornerback Ronald Darby among the team’s possible free agent targets.
“Detroit has already added plenty to its secondary,” Booher wrote. “Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley were free-agent additions, while draftee Brian Branch has the ability to play both corner and safety positions.
“Depth remains a concern, as Will Harris and Jerry Jacobs have both produced mixed results over the last two seasons. Darby is a veteran who could offer a steady hand when called upon.”
Darby could offer the Lions secondary eight years of NFL experience. During his career, he’s started 88 contests with four different organizations.
He also won a Super Bowl ring during the 2017 season.
How Ronald Darby Potentially Fits With the Lions
As Booher noted, the Lions have already added several new pieces to their secondary. Detroit spent $45.5 million to bring in cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley, along with safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, in free agency.
Second-round rookie Brian Branch could also compete for early playing time.
But Booher is unimpressed with Detroit’s depth at cornerback. The Pro Football Focus player grades agree.
Will Harris and Jerry Jacobs have each started at least 17 games over the past two seasons. In 2022, though, PFF ranked both players in the bottom half of 131 cornerbacks who played at least 20% of his team’s defensive snaps.
Jones particularly struggled according to PFF. He finished with a grade that rated him No. 102 among those 131 cornerbacks.
Darby turned 29 in January, but he would bring more experience to Detroit’s secondary than any other player currently on the roster.
He arrived in the NFL as a second-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft with the Buffalo Bills. Darby played immediately, recording 21 pass defenses and 2 interceptions in 15 starts as a rookie.
The Bills traded Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2017 season. He dislocated his ankle in his first game with the Eagles, which sidelined him for nine weeks.
He returned, though, to recorded a career-high 3 interceptions in 7 starts during 2017 and help the Eagles win the Super Bowl. He posted 4 combined tackles and 2 pass defenses against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl victory.
Could Lions Target CB Ronald Darby in NFL Free Agency?
In a perfect world, the Lions would add a cornerback before the regular season. But there’s no guarantee Darby is the team’s first choice.
If the Lions really wanted to make a splash at cornerback, they could pursue Marcus Peters. Other notable cornerbacks available in free agency include Byron Jones, Bradley Roby and Casey Heyward.
Cornerback, though, may not be at the top of Detroit’s priority list if general manager Brad Holmes does pursue more free agents. Through rumors, the Lions have been connected to several free agent defensive linemen recently including Matt Ioannidis, Shelby Harris and Yannick Ngakoue.
CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin also called the Lions a potential landing spot for Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young through a trade.
If the Lions prioritize the secondary over the defensive line, cornerback may still not be the biggest position of need. Detroit was essentially forced to release safety C.J. Moore after the league suspended him indefinitely for gambling on NFL games.
The Lions are arguably as thin at safety as cornerback.
Darby is an interesting possibility for the Lions but one of many free agent options the team still has.