Morris Claiborne may have been the New York Jets’ best free agent acquisition of the 2017 offseason — and our staff believes so, ranking Kelvin Beachum and Josh McCown at 17 and 19 on the 2017 Best of the Jets list, respectively.
Claiborne, who comes in at No. 14 on the list, has an opportunity to resurrect his career after a wildly up-and-down and injury plagued five-year career in Dallas. After he was taken sixth overall in 2012, Claiborne had a strong rookie season, playing in 15 games and recording a career-high eight passes defended.
Over the next four seasons, Claiborne played in just 32 of Dallas’ 64 games, struggling immensely in many. 2016 was a redemption year that started off great, but ended with yet another injury.
Will Claiborne stay healthy and perform as New York’s ‘CB1’ this year?
What he did in 2016:
When healthy, Claiborne flashed signs of his top-10 talent in 2016. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks completed just 10 percent of deep passes (20+ yards) against him, the fourth-lowest catch rate against any NFL cornerback. He also allowed a career low 0.81 yards per coverage snap and had five passes defended in seven games.
Injuries derailed what may have been his best year to date, as a groin injury sidelined him for the second half of the season.
Why he’s on the list this year:
Due to the talent-deprived Jets roster, Claiborne has the potential to crack the top 10 on this list next year, if he stays healthy and returns to the team. He showed last year that he can still be a solid cornerback in the NFL with plenty of upside, all depending on his health.
Todd Bowles commented on his athleticism, and quite frankly, he is the most qualified Jets cornerback to cover opponents’ top receivers
“He’s athletic and he’s talented,” Bowles said in June. “For a corner, he has very long arms… If he can stay healthy, he’ll help us.”
What to expect in 2017:
There may be some ugly moments for Claiborne, as he may be asked to play press coverage on top receivers. However, he will have as good of a chance to revive his career as he ever will. He will undoubtedly start the season as the top cornerback and, even if he struggles a bit, could remain the starter the entire season. Of course, that all depends on his health.
Behind Claiborne, Williams and nickel-specialist Buster Skrine, New York may seek an opportunity to play Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts or Dexter McDougle, a few of the several depth corners on the offseason roster. Despite that list of unproven names behind him, it’s Claiborne’s starting job to lose.