A week into free agency, the Jets finally addressed their leaky secondary.
The team was expected to finalize a deal with free-agent cornerback Morris Claiborne, according to multiple reports. Terms were not immediately known. Claiborne was the No. 6 pick in the draft by the Cowboys in 2012, but he never has lived up to his lofty draft status.
Injuries have been a huge story in Claiborne’s career. He has not played a full season in his five-year career. He has played in 47 of a possible 80 games since he was drafted – missing time with wrist, knee, shoulder, hamstring, ankle and groin injuries.
Claiborne played just seven games in 2016, but played better than he had earlier in his career before suffering a groin injury that cost him the final nine games of the regular season. He did return for their playoff game with the Packers. He had 26 tackles and an interception and was the 12th-highest graded corner in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
“He is a guy who can come in and has a chance to be a starter, but injuries and durability and availability have been issues,” one scout said.
He will definitely come in as a starter for the cornerback-needy Jets. They released Darrelle Revis earlier this month and currently have Buster Skrine, Juston Burris and Marcus Williams as their top cornerbacks. The secondary was a mess last year, when the team allowed 13 pass plays of 40 yards or more, the third-most in the league. They intercepted just eight passes, the second-fewest in the league.
The signing of Claiborne is the first step in fixing the secondary. The Jets still are expected to take a cornerback in the draft, perhaps with the No. 6 overall pick.
This is the biggest signing of a quiet free-agency period for the Jets. Claiborne joins offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum and kicker Chandler Catanzaro as free agents to sign with the Jets. The team whiffed on linebacker Dont’a Hightower this week when he opted to return to the Patriots. They also are searching for a quarterback after missing out on Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer early in free agency.
The Jets also agreed to a one-year deal with defensive tackle Mike Pennel on Thursday, according to his agent. The Jets claimed Pennel off waivers in February from the Packers, but they did not tender him as a restricted free agent.
Pennel played eight games for the Packers last year, serving four-game suspensions at the beginning and end of the season. He joins Steve McLendon and Deon Simon as big men in the middle of the defensive line for the Jets.