Free Agency

Should the Jets re-sign or decline Morris Claiborne?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 24: Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets break up a pass intended for Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-6.(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 24: Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets break up a pass intended for Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-6.(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 24: Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets break up a pass intended for Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-6.(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 24: Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets break up a pass intended for Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on September 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The New York Jets defeated the Miami Dolphins 20-6.(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

In the inaugural edition of “Re-sign or Decline,” we take a look at a cornerback who had his share of ups and downs in yet another injury-plagued season. Should the New York Jets bring back Morris Claiborne?

As a former sixth overall selection back in 2012, it’s safe to say that Morris Claiborne‘s career hasn’t necessarily gone according to plan.

This isn’t to say that the 28-year-old cornerback hasn’t carved out a solid role for himself and become a quality player in the league. But there’s no denying that injuries and setbacks have held Claiborne back from reaching his true potential to this point.

When healthy, there’s a legitimate case for Claiborne to be considered a true number one cornerback. Through the first eight games of this season, the former Dallas Cowboy was on top of his game and playing the best ball of his career before a foot injury hampered his performance for the rest of the year.

Injuries have always been the biggest concern with Claiborne and this is one factor the New York Jets will heavily consider when making the decision to re-up the talented corner or simply let him walk.

Let’s take a look at both sides of the equation and analyze whether the Jets should choose to re-sign or decline Claiborne.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 26: Cornerback Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets reacts during the second half of the game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Carolina Panthers won 35-27. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 26: Cornerback Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets reacts during the second half of the game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Carolina Panthers won 35-27. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Case to Re-sign

Claiborne was indisputably the Jets best cornerback in 2017 and while that may not be saying much, it certainly helps his case for being re-signed.

Buster Skrine saw the most time opposite Claiborne and his season was shaky, to say the least. The veteran cornerback looked lost at times and was a penalty machine for the better part of the year finishing 2017 as the most penalized player on the team with 11 enforced infractions.

For the record, no other player had more than eight.

When the team switched to their nickel defense, which was a good portion of the time, the team rotated between Darryl Roberts, Juston Burris, and even mid-season acquisition Rashard Robinson as the outside corner aside Claiborne while Skrine shifted to his natural position in the slot. None of these corners were able to excel and it’s likely none are considered potential pieces of the future with Roberts and Burris the most likely to hang around and compete for playing time.

The only real constant among the Jets cornerbacks was Claiborne who not only proved a reliable option throughout the season but showed flashes of brilliance when fully healthy.

Claiborne was having perhaps the best stretch of his career through his first eight games with his new team before hurting his foot in the Jets loss to the Atlanta Falcons. In that game, the LSU product was shutting down superstar receiver Julio Jones before his untimely injury in the third quarter. Quarterback Matt Ryan connected with Jones for a 53-yard reception on the team’s very next offensive snap.

There is no game that better shows the value Claiborne brings to this team than that contest against the Falcons. If his agent were smart, the tape of that game should be used as a primary negotiating tool to show to both the Jets and other teams if need be. It shows that if Claiborne is healthy, he could cover some of the best receivers in the NFL.

While Claiborne was never the same player following his foot impairment, the former first-round pick still provided consistency to a Jets cornerback position severely lacking any sort of depth. Claiborne still managed to play in 15 out of 16 games, something he hadn’t done since his rookie season, and this is made even more impressive when you consider the fact that he likely played about half of those contests with an injured foot.

Question his durability, never his toughness.

Overall, it’s fair to say that Claiborne certainly exceeded expectations in 2017 and the Jets organization would likely prefer to have him back at the right price.

Next: The Case to Decline

The Case to Decline

Perhaps it’s cliché at this point to say that Claiborne has had an injury-riddled career.

That being said, Claiborne has had an injury-riddled career.

This is a statement that bears repeating because while many may know the fact, few understand the extent to which this statement is true. The incredible string of bad luck that has followed Claiborne throughout his professional career is truly uncanny. His injury list looks more like the lyrics to “Dem Bones” as the brittle-boned corner has wounded seemingly every part of his body at least once.

Throughout the years, Claiborne has had surgery on his wrist, sprained his knee, dislocated his shoulder, played through a hamstring strain, had knee tendinitis, separated the AC joint in his shoulder, torn his left patellar tendon, injured his hamstring (again) and ankle in 2015, suffered a concussion, injured his foot, and torn his groin. The latter of which came during his breakout 2016 campaign which was cut short due to said injury.

In fact, Claiborne was eventually able to return in the Cowboys postseason game against the Green Bay Packers after a nine-week absence only to injure his ribs in the first half and miss the remainder of the game.

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Add that to the list as well.

It really is a shame that a talented player such as Claiborne has seemingly been cursed with a neverending series of injuries but from an organizational standpoint personal feelings shouldn’t get in the way of business.

Claiborne’s extensive injury record is a liability to any NFL franchise. As such, most teams would be very hesitant to sign the skilled cornerback to any long-term contract and his lack of career consistency make it unlikely he gets anywhere near the sort of yearly salary a top-tier corner would get.

If Claiborne asks for too much, there are plenty of other options for the Jets to explore in the free agent market with big names such as Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler headlining the class. With a multitude of cap room to play with, the Jets could very well search for Claiborne’s replacement, one that would likely be better and less injury prone.

And if that’s the case, then Claiborne might just be a one-year wonder for Gang Green.

Next: The Consensus

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 03: Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets reacts after giving up a touchdown to Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 3, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 03: Morris Claiborne #21 of the New York Jets reacts after giving up a touchdown to Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 3, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Consensus

Ultimately, there are few scenarios where the Jets shouldn’t re-sign Claiborne.

Despite his injury history, the veteran still remains a solid starting option and the team shouldn’t have to break the bank for him either. A two to three year deal with an average salary of anywhere from $4 to $6 million seems fairly reasonable for a player of his caliber.

An ideal situation would have the Jets signing a true number one cornerback such as Johnson or even Butler and re-signing Claiborne to be the team’s number two. This gives the team some much-needed depth as they wouldn’t have to rely on the former sixth overall pick staying healthy. Essentially, they wouldn’t be screwed over by Claiborne’s inevitable trip to the injury report.

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Claiborne has already made it very clear that he would be more than happy to return to the team in 2018. Now it’s simply up to the two sides to come to a collective agreement that will mutually benefit both parties.

The only benefit Jets fans need is the pleasure of watching No. 21 in green and white for a second season.

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