The New York Jets’ cornerback play has gone from awful to inspiring. The addition of Morris Claiborne is a major reason for that.
There weren’t many positive things floating around about Morris Claiborne when the New York Jets decided to sign the veteran cornerback to a one-year, $5 million deal this offseason.
- ESPN: “Claiborne biggest bust in Cowboys history”
- Bleacher Report: “Morris Claiborne Could Be a Bust of Epic Proportions In Dallas”
- Star Telegram: “Cowboys cornerback Claiborne tired of being called a ‘bust'”
Just to name a few.
Claiborne was a top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. ‘America’s Team’ actually traded up to the top of the draft to have an opportunity to take the shutdown corner from LSU. He had an up and down career in big D.
But after spending five years in Texas, Claiborne was ready to mix things up in his life. So why not try to fill the shoes of arguably the greatest defender in New York Jets’ history in Darrelle Revis?
Although the 32-year old Revis, who remains a free agent, is a shell of what he once was, rumors had been percolating that Revis wasn’t giving it his all and when that hit the media, it spread like wildfire. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, former teammates and fans were infuriated by the notion that a $70 million man could care less about his team or his poor play.
Despite all of that, Claiborne came to the Jets with minimal expectations on a prove it contract. That’s exactly what he’s done: Prove that he’s got plenty of good football left in him.
On the season, #Jets Mo Claiborne has allowed a 69.7 QBR, which ranks 26th among 110 qualified CBs. He has yet to allow a TD this season.
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) October 23, 2017
The best stat so far this season that encapsulates just how good Claiborne has been playing comes way of Pro Football Focus (see above Tweet).
Before we start a trending hashtag of #PayTheMan, let’s understand why the Cowboys didn’t extend him.
One troubling metric that has followed Claiborne throughout his career is his propensity to get hurt and miss games. If you can’t stay on the field it doesn’t matter how talented you are.
Prior to slapping on the green and white, Claiborne missed 33 of 80 games because of a variety of injuries. So far this season for the Jets, Claiborne hasn’t missed a beat. Cornerback has been a problem area for the Jets over the last several years, which begs the question, should they dig a little deeper into their pockets to #PayTheMan?
The Jets are projected to have north of $81 million in available cap space, per Spotrac. Claiborne will be 28 by the start of the new league year in March.
Who are the other top options in free agency? (per ESPN)
- Trumaine Johnson, CB, LA Rams (28 by start of free agency)
- Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots (28 by start of free agency)
- Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts (30 by start of 2018 season)
There are more options than usual projected to reach free agency. Although there seems to be a theme with age, so that’s not really a factor in terms of differentiation. Although something that’s a near guarantee out of all those options is that Claiborne should be the cheapest.
Which brings us full circle. Back in 2013, the Jets had no other option but to trade Revis with his obscene contract demands. The Jets had an opportunity to immediately bring him back the next offseason in what would’ve been one of the greatest heists in NFL history.
Instead, Revis signed with the Patriots. He won his only Super Bowl before finally making his return to Gotham, albeit on a 5-year $70 million contract.
The Jets tried paying for a player that was past his prime and that flopped horribly. Revis was the hero the Jets wanted to return them back to glory, but it simply wasn’t in the cards. While Claiborne wasn’t the Jets’ first option to save their secondary, he’s been the hero they needed this season.