INDIANAPOLIS – There might not be a more intriguing player among the Cowboys’ free agents than Morris Claiborne.
As he prepares for his second-straight trip to free agency, the five-year veteran presents an interesting dilemma for any team that wants to sign him.
Claiborne played the best football of his career in 2016. He seemed to redeem the Cowboys’ decision to sign him to a one-year deal with 26 tackles, five pass breakups and an interception in the first seven games of the season.
Unfortunately, the same injury problems that have plagued Claiborne’s entire career cropped up again. He suffered a major groin injury on Oct. 30 and wasn’t seen again until the playoffs, where he wasn’t as effective against the Packers.
“The biggest issue that he’s had in his career is the health issue and the durability issue,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Wednesday at the NFL Combine. “Every injury he’s had has been legitimate – it’s been real injuries.”
That much is true. In addition to the groin injury, Claiborne has dealt with serious hamstring and shoulder injuries. Worst of all was his torn patellar tendon in 2014, which sideline him for the final 12 weeks of the Cowboys’ playoff run.
Given the difficulty of the rehab process, it was a victory in itself that Claiborne returned and played 11 games in 2015.
“We feel like he’s done a good job coming back from those injuries,” Garrett said. “We felt like he played his best football last year, prior to that injury later in the year.”
It all combines to create a fascinating discussion. Claiborne is a quality starting cornerback when he’s healthy. The problem is he has yet to prove he can do that, having played in just 48 of 83 possible games in five years.
There will be plenty of questions about how much money and how many years Claiborne can command with his next contract. Like with all their other free agents, the Cowboys will have to wait to have them answered in the coming days.
“We think he’s the right kind of guy. We think he’s got a very bright future ahead of him,” Garrett said. “You factor those things in – is he durable enough, is he available enough? But there’s a lot to like about him.”