Should the Bengals Trade for Morris Claiborne?


Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) on the field during the game against the St. Louis Rams at AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys beat the St. Louis Rams 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, turmoil once again engulfed the Dallas Cowboys organization when cornerback, and former first round pick, Morris Claiborne left the team and missed practice after learning he’d be benched for returning cornerback Orlando Scandrick.

Since being drafted in 2012, Claiborne’s career has never measured up to what was anticipated from the dynamo from Louisiana State.  His playing time has decreased over his three years as has his production.  He’s been consistently exposed by opposing wide receivers despite his great athletic ability.  Coming out of college, one of the knocks against him was his tendency at times to rely upon his athleticism rather than focus on technique–and assumedly the mental part of the game.  It’s three years into his career now and Claiborne seems to be getting nowhere with the Cowboys.  It seems his frustration, along with the organization’s seems to have hit a boiling point.  Yesterday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had this to say to the Dallas Morning News (KRLD-FM) regarding Claiborne .

"“Is he what we had hoped for at this point when we drafted him with the sixth overall pick, giving up the pick to go up to the sixth pick to get him? No. But he’s going to be a good player.”"

Jerry Jones and the Cowboys traded their first round pick and a second round pick to move up and take Claiborne in 2012.

Jerry Jones’ statement may not be inaccurate, but certainly isn’t going to be helpful to anyone in this situation and it may be time for the Cowboys and Claiborne to part ways.

But Jones is a business man–and a prideful one–and won’t want to walk away empty handed.  So, should the Bengals consider making a move?

It’s well known that the Bengals have a certain talent and penchant for resurrecting players’ lost careers–see Reggie Nelson, Terence Newman, and Adam Jones as examples of this.  Each of these players found success in Cincinnati following previously tumultuous careers (for varying reasons).  Ironically, both Jones and Newman’s last team was the Cowboys while Nelson last played for the Jaguars.  Nelson’s path in the NFL most mirrors that of Claiborne’s.  Nelson, a former first round pick, was struggled to find his footing in the Jaguars scheme early in his career.  This led to his trade to the Bengals where he found a more befitting place for him within Mike Zimmer’s system and he has shined since.  The Bengals could do the same for Claiborne.

He would have mentors in Cincinnati where he lacks them in Dallas; guys who have been through similar trials and tribulations.  In Cincinnati he would also find a structured and supportive organization; again something Dallas seems to lack.  The Bengals have been steadfast in their support of embattled quarterback Andy Dalton while they also have been the model of consistency and support.  Claiborne also wouldn’t be expected to do much in the beginning, but could get a shot to be productive in short order.  The Bengals currently possess aging cornerback Terence Newman, who is likely in his final year with the team; he’s 36 and in the final year of his deal.  Claiborne could come in and learn the system, then battle with several other young cornerbacks for playing time next year.  Claiborne doesn’t lack talent or physical attributes, but rather the necessary refining to play in the NFL and Cincinnati could help him.

You may also be wondering about money considering his first round status.  The Bengals will possess the necessary cap to absorb his ~$5.176 million cap hit next year, which will also be the final year of his current rookie deal meaning the Bengals’ investment would be short term and calculated.  Even if the Bengals resign A.J. Green to an appropriate deal and give substantial raises to 2015 free agents Clint Boling, Jermaine Gresham, Emmanuel Lamur, Brandon Tate, Taylor Mays, and Dane Sanzenbacher, they could still afford Claiborne; this includes setting aside $8 million for draft picks next year, which is probably an appropriate estimate, but was calculated erring on the side of overestimation.  According to Profootballtalk, the NFL’s 2015 salary cap should settle at a minimum of $140 million with the likely hood that it moves more towards $145 million.  This means the Bengals would settle at, or under the cap even with Claiborne’s acquisition.

The Cowboys won’t state anything regarding their consideration of Morris Claiborne, but it’s entirely possible that they could trade the young corner.  The Bengals possess additional picks next year as they’ll receive mid-round compensatory picks for both Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins, both of which could be third-round picks.  They also possess a cheap and talented corner in reserve defensive back Chris Lewis-Harris who’s only problem has been a lack of playing time due to the deep and talented secondary in front of him.  He could find more opportunity in Dallas and probably help their porous secondary; a “win” for both teams.

Considering a talented yet struggling player is far from a reach when looking at the Bengals history.  Mike Brown has considered himself a “redeemer” in the past while Marvin Lewis and Co. has found great success with helping these types of individuals find success in this league.  Could Morris Claiborne be their next resurrection project?