ENGLEWOOD -- There is the confidence -- the belief he can win every matchup. There is the edge -- that full on gaze, looking into the backfield and knowing a stop is coming. There is the ring -- the championship won with the Eagles that makes him qualified to help the Broncos regain their traction after four straight losing seasons.
Ronald Darby will be counted on to be a solid corner, and a leader.
"He plays with swagger and he can really cover. He can cover. Like I said, we evaluate all the corners in free agency. The pro department evaluates all the corners in the league, and you stack him up, man-to-man coverage and then you watch him in zone -- then we bring the coaches on board. How does he fit?" Broncos general manager George Paton said.
"Does this guy fit? Yes, he does. What's the next step? You call around the league and learn about Ronald. What kind of person is he? Everyone said he was a great person. He loves ball. Like I said, he's a glue guy. What stuck out is just his athletic ability, his talent on the field and then the high character he has off (the field).”
The Broncos gravitated to Darby after his strong, make-good season in Washington. He stayed healthy after three straight years of suffering significant injuries and playing less than 16 games, Darby excelled. His 16 passes defensed ranked fifth in the NFL. It led to a three-year, $30-million contract with $19.5 million guaranteed from the Broncos.
I asked Darby about the fit, for this reason. He is an ace in man coverage. The Broncos play more read-and-react zone.
"I feel as though I could play in a lot of schemes," Darby said. "Last year with Washington, that was pretty much a zone scheme for the first time, but like you said, I can mix it up. With the front that’s here, I can make a lot of plays.”
Darby has the talent of a top corner, but might not need to be if the Broncos are able to sign Kyle Fuller in free agency.
Regardless, Darby will be asked to improve a secondary that leans too heavily on safety Justin Simmons to make plays (he delivered six of the Broncos' 16 takeaways). Darby plans to turn deflections into interceptions. And at 27, he has plenty to prove.
"Of course. I haven’t made it to a Pro Bowl yet. I haven’t been All-Pro yet. Those are things I want to do. Each year, I just want to get better and better and will continue to get better and better," Darby said. "That all starts in the offseason when people are not around, and coaches aren’t looking. It’s what you’re doing with yourself and with your time.”
Running for a chance
Mike Boone knows Phillip Lindsay. "Shout out to him," he said Thursday. They worked out at Landow Performance before the 2018 draft. Neither was selected. But both have carved out a path in the NFL. Lindsay will leave via free agency -- maybe Arizona, San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City -- but Boone has found a home in Denver with $2.6 million guaranteed on a two-year deal.
As Paton said, Boone is a "self-made man."
"He's one of the top special teams players for the Vikings. He was playing behind Dalvin Cook, so he didn't have a lot of opportunity, but when he did have the opportunity, he really produced. I think he's going to help our room," Paton said. "He's going to add some special teams to the offensive side of the ball, which we lack. I'm really excited to have Mike Boone here.”
Boone welcomes the opportunity. He's No. 2 on the depth chart behind Melvin Gordon, and figures to play on coverage units.
"I consider myself a one-cut back. I like to make my cuts and then get downhill," Boone said. "That fits the scheme of this offense and I feel like I can be versatile and come in make the offense a little more explosive whenever my number is called.”
Paton said the Broncos have made progress on a longterm deal with Simmons, who was franchise tagged earlier this month. Simmons is due $13.7 million with the tag. A longterm deal could lower his base salary considerably and lessen the cap hit as the team continues to look to add pieces in free agency. ...
Paton will continue to attend Pro Days, and take looks at quarterbacks. Those players set to work out over the next two weeks are Mac Jones, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. The Broncos are keeping options open at quarterback, including with the ninth overall pick.