By Dylan Tereman
The upcoming months are a crucial point in the offseason, as the new league year starts on March 13th. Any player that the New York Jets decide not to retain will become a free agent, able to sign with any of team. Currently, Gang Green has the fewest players under contract on its roster, with 24 set to become unrestricted free agents. One name on the list is starting cornerback Morris Claiborne. A former 6th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Claiborne will turn 29 before the start of the 2019 season.
Starting alongside Trumaine Johnson, Claiborne started 15 games in Green and White. Unfortunately, he was unable to play in the season finale against New England due to nagging shoulder and ankle injuries. Though he has never started a full 16 game season, he was able to play in 30 out of a possible 32 games while in New York over the past 2 seasons. During his time in Dallas, Claiborne only played 15 games once, back in his rookie season.
2018 was a solid year for Claiborne, who finished with a career high in tackles (57), interceptions (2) and passes defended (14). He also had a defensive touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, securing a pass that was tipped by teammate Jamal Adams. According to Pro Football Focus, Claiborne finished with a season grade of 62.7, ranking him 42nd amongst cornerbacks with at least 600 snaps. While the stats may not jump off the page, Claiborne has been a solid contributor to the Jets defense, and with the free agent market expected to be very scarce, Claiborne will garner attention from other clubs. Last year, Claiborne signed a 1 year, $7 million deal to stay in New York.
Most teams re-sign their players before they hit free agency, whether it’s with a long-term contract or the franchise tag. In 2019, the estimated price for a tagged cornerback is $14.5 million, per overthecap.com. The odds of Claiborne receiving the franchise tag are slim to none, so Gang Green will either need to offer him a new contract, or replace him with a new face. Among the list of cornerbacks set to be free agents are Texans Kareem Jackson, Raiders corner Rashaan Melvin, and E.J. Gaines of the Cleveland Browns. It has yet to be determined if these players will indeed hit the market, so New York may need to look to replace him with a young prospect in April. This year is considered to be a defensive draft class, with many defensive backs having Day 1 talent. Among some notable names are LSU’s Greedy Williams, Deandre Baker of Georgia, and Rock Ya-Sin from Temple.
Retaining players in the National Football League is a key part of maintaining continuity throughout the locker room and organization, and the Jets have enough money to keep players like Morris Claiborne on the roster for 2019. With Gang Green having many holes to fill on both offense and defense, general manager Mike Maccagnan said they will be aggressive this March in free agency. Morris Claiborne is one to watch as March 13th approaches.