Former sixth overall pick Morris Claiborne signed a one-year, prove-it deal last offseason. Betting on himself ended up paying dividends for the former Cowboys cornerback, as Claiborne turned a solid year into a lucrative deal with the New York Jets.
After a pedestrian first four NFL seasons, Claiborne stepped up his game in year five; the young veteran tallied 24 tackles, five pass defenses and an interception in just seven games. He did so after making the position switch from the right side to the left side of the defense, where he lined up against opponents’ top wideouts on a more frequent basis. More importantly, the 27-year-old emerged as a capable starting cornerback, limiting opponents’ top receivers and oftentimes rendering them useless for long stretches of games.
Unfortunately, Claiborne suffered an injury and missed the final nine games of 2016. He’s yet to play a full 16-game season, which could present a major concern. Nonetheless, he is a good player when healthy and can immediately upgrade the Jets’ defensive backs corp.
But his departure leaves big questions for the Cowboys’ secondary. Claiborne is the second starting corner to depart Dallas this spring. Brandon Carr left the NFC East for a role with the Ravens on a four-year, $24 million contract earlier this offseason. Safeties J.J. Wilcox (Buccaneers) and Barry Church (Jaguars) also found new teams.
That’s a lot of experience the Cowboys will have to replace:
In losing Carr, Church, Wilcox and Claiborne, the Cowboys have to replace 2,679 snaps from 2016.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 16, 2017
Fortunately for the franchise, a stacked offense means Jerry Jones can devote his capital to a strong 2017 NFL Draft class of defensive backs.
The Jets will hope Claiborne can be the kind of featured cornerback Darrelle Revis failed to be in 2016. Claiborne has the talent to put No. 1. wideouts on an island, but has yet to fulfill the promise he showed as the No. 6 selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.