ESPN put together a list of players who might benefit from a change of scenery, and the Cowboys' choice doesn't come as too much of a surprise.
Dallas Cowboys: Technically, cornerback Morris Claiborne will be given the chance for a change of scenery because he will be a free agent in March, but last season he said numerous times he wants to stay in Dallas. The Cowboys made a bold move up in the 2012 draft to take Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. They said he was their highest-ranked defensive back since Deion Sanders. In four seasons, he recorded three interceptions, and has been unable to play a full slate of games, missing time because of a concussion and hamstring, knee and ankle injuries. When he played, he was solid, but he could never live up to the expectations of the No. 6 pick. -- Todd Archer
There is no doubt that Claiborne has not lived up to the expectations that come with being the sixth overall pick, or that come with the unfortunate comparison with Deion Sanders. But that doesn't mean you have to kick him to the curb. As Archer writes, when Claiborne has played, he has been solid, if unspectacular.
The Cowboys are in a peculiar position in that they have to make decisions on both of their starting corners from 2015. Brandon Carr carries a base salary of $9.1 million next season, and the Cowboys would like to reduce that number, possibly to zero if they release him. And moving on from both Carr and Claiborne at the same time would leave the Cowboys with the tall task of finding two new starting cailber cornerbacks this offseason.
But the fresh start Archer and ESPN are advocating for Claiborne may not have to come outside of Dallas. The Cowboys have been unusually thorough in finding a replacement for departed secondary coach Jerome Henderson. As Archer reported via Twitter, the Cowboys have already interviewed six secondary coaches:
- Al Golden, former University of Miami head football coach (2011-15).
- Steve Brown, assistant secondary coach for the Tennessee Titans (2012-present).
- Joe Baker, the Cowboys' own assistant secondary and safeties coach (2012-present).
- Tim Lewis, defensive back coach for the 49ers last year. DB coach and defensive coordinator for various NFL teams since 1993.
- Mike Nolan, former 49ers head coach, and former defensive coordinator for the Ravens, Jets, Redskins, Giants, Broncos, Dolphins, and Falcons. Most recently the linebackers coach in San Diego.
- Gil Byrd, former Tampa Bay secondary coach (2014-15), and previously worked with Rod Marinelli in Chicago from 2009-2012.
There's a good chance the Cowboys are conducting such a thorough search because they want to get their secondary back on track, but there's also a chance candidates are being asked how they believe they can get Claiborne playing up to his potential.
Of course, the last part could just be wishful thinking. For four years the Cowboys - and Claiborne - have had to live with the disappointment of not living up to the lofty expectations Claiborne was saddled with in Dallas. And while Claiborne has said all the right things about wanting to stay in Dallas and give it another try, those expectations may prove too much to overcome, for the Cowboys and for Claiborne.
Or the new secondary coach may be just the second chance Claiborne needs.