The Cincinnati Bengals rarely sign outside free agents. But if they sign someone this offseason, it should be Morris Claiborne.
Morris Claiborne was the first defensive player selected in the 2012 NFL Draft but four years later, he’s already labeled as a bust. The 25-year-old cornerback is now a free agent, but he might struggle generating interest. Claiborne has been picked on in seemingly every game he’s played, he’s injury-prone and he’s been disappointing to his team and its fans.
Sound familiar? It should.
In 2010, former Cowboys corner Adam Jones signed a two-year with the Bengals after missing the entire 2009 season with a suspension. Prior to 2010, Pacman was known as a waste of talent, as his issues on and off the field in Dallas and Tennessee prevented him from fully reaching his potential. No one wanted to sign the corner after his season-long suspension, as he was talented but troubled player. Cincinnati, however, gave him a chance.
Five years, 235 tackles, 10 interceptions and 2,000+ return yards later, it looks like the Bengals got their money’s worth. Jones is one of football’s top corners, and while he hasn’t been a perfect guy on and off the field, he’s kept it under control.
However, Pacman wasn’t the only player who found success in Cincinnati after a difficult start to his career.
In 2012, the Dallas Cowboys released 33-year-old corner Terence Newman to clear space under the salary cap. While Newman had been a star previous career success, it seemed as though his career was on the downturn. Corners are rarely effective past age 30, let alone 33. But Newman excelled in Cincinnati, recording over 200 tackles and intercepting five passes in three seasons. 37-year-old Newman is still playing, now in Minnesota. By the looks of it, it’s safe to say that the Bengals revived his career.
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Like Jones and Newman, Morris Claiborne is a former Cowboys corner. He didn’t live up to his draft potential, just like Pacman. Like Newman, Claiborne hasn’t had many issues off the field, but like Newman, he’s a bit injury-prone. Claiborne has the physical gifts that both of these former Cowboys possess, and like both, he was the first defensive player selected in his draft. In fact, if it weren’t for the Jets drafting defensive tackle
a pick before the Cowboys took Newman in 2003, all three of these players would’ve been the first defensive players taken in their respective drafts.
But one thing is clear: the Bengals should take a chance on Morris Claiborne. He’s physically gifted, he could potentially become a returner down the line and he might not be that hard to get, as he only has three career interceptions in four seasons (he didn’t pick off a single pass in 2015).
With Leon Hall‘s return to Cincinnati not likely, the Bengals will be looking for a new corner. Claiborne should be that guy. If he comes to the Queen City, he can learn from Pacman and Cincinnati’s coaching staff–and hopefully, re-establish himself as a legitimate NFL cornerback.