Morris Claiborne has not played up to being the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft. The cornerback has been sidelined with numerous injuries and has been underwhelming when healthy.
But owner Jerry Jones says the Dallas Cowboys have seen enough to pick up Claiborne’s 2016 option this spring.
Asked whether he felt Claiborne had done enough to justify that, Jones responded: “Yes. Yes I do.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Cowboys will follow through. Jones might have simply been defending a player who has been labeled a big-time bust.
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Picking up Claiborne’s fifth-year option for 2016 this spring would be extremely risky. He would be owed $11 million that season, regardless of his injury status, and it’s unknown if he will be healthy to start next season.
Claiborne, 24, suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4 against New Orleans, rupturing the patellar tendon in his left knee. He underwent surgery to have his right knee scoped this month.
Claiborne hopes to be ready for training camp, but there are no guarantees for now. That’s why it’s too early to tell whether Jones’ words should be taken literally, or simply as a vote of confidence for Claiborne.
It’s too early to tell which way the Cowboys will go in this year’s draft.
They might need to find a replacement at right tackle if Doug Free and Jermey Parnell bolt in free agency. They could be searching for running backs to fill the void should DeMarco Murray find a new home.
But, without question, the No. 1 area they’ll be looking at closely at this week’s Senior Bowl is the defensive line.
The Cowboys in 2014 ranked 28th in the NFL in sacks with only 28, led by Jeremy Mincey’s six.
“Certainly that will be an area we will look at,” Jones said.
The Cowboys rotate their defensive linemen frequently, a positive in Jones’ mind. That puts less of a burden on a draft pick by having him play a more limited number of snaps.
“We know how hard it is to draft one to come in and make 60 snaps, but we don’t have to count on that,” Jones said. “We’ve got a system that puts in place several players that, if they can get 20 to 25 snaps in, then we’ve got someone that makes a contribution.”
Staff in place
There have been no unexpected changes to the Cowboys’ coaching staff.
Jones said the team finalized contracts with the rest of the assistants after announcing new contracts for head coach Jason Garrett, play-caller Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli last week.
And signs point to former Cowboys tackle Marc Colombo becoming the assistant offensive line coach, as he’s with the rest of the coaching staff at the Pro Bowl this week in Arizona. That is the only spot open on the staff with Bill Callahan departing for Washington and Frank Pollack being promoted from assistant to offensive line coach.
“We haven’t done anything definitive yet,” Jones said. “But you would have to think he’s the leader in the clubhouse because he’s highly, highly respected and thought of by all the members of the staff.”
Regarding Monte Kiffin’s status going forward, Jones said the team continues to discuss its options. Kiffin served as the defensive coordinator in 2013 and carried the title of assistant head coach/defense last year.
“As of right now, he’s on the staff,” Jones said.
With the coaching staff set, Jones said he would also like to take care of the front-office staff, including assistant director of player personnel Will McClay.
“I don’t have anything for you there right now, but we certainly have looked at what we want to do,” Jones said.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760