IRVING, Texas – It's not surprising, but it is official. The Cowboys have decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on Morris Claiborne's rookie contract.
This past Sunday was the option deadline for all 32 first-round picks from the 2012 NFL Draft, as the league's collective bargaining agreement stipulates that clubs have the choice to re-up their first-rounders for a fifth season.
Because he was taken No. 6 overall, Claiborne would have been in line for an $11 million payday next year – a one-year deal worth the average of the 10-highest cornerback salaries.
Claiborne's lengthy injury history gave the team even less incentive to extend him, as the fifth-year salary is guaranteed in the event of an injury. Since arriving in Dallas from LSU, the cornerback has battled various injury issues, including a torn patellar tendon that sidelined him for 12 games last year.
The decision not to extend Claiborne's contract, coupled with Thursday's selection of Byron Jones at No. 27 overall in the NFL draft, seems an awful lot like writing on the wall. The Cowboys insist that isn't the case, however.
During the buildup to the draft, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett have been sure to point out Claiborne's work in rehabilitating his injured knee. Claiborne isn't likely to be healthy for any of the offseason program or the start of training camp, but Cowboys executives are still hopeful he can play a role in the secondary in 2015.
The Cowboys traded up from the No. 14 pick to select Claiborne at No. 6 overall back in 2014, and he has missed 21 of 50 possible games with just three interceptions. The two picks they dealt in the trade turned into St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers and Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery.
If Claiborne can get himself healthy, he'll likely be in a battle with Orlando Scandrick, Brandon Carr and Jones for playing time at the corner position.