Should the Packers Trade for Morris Claiborne: An Idea Less Crazy than It Sounds

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

While the talk in Green Bay has centered on free agency, the Packers could also pursue adding assets through trade. One such possibility is Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne.

Every roster addition, whether it comes through the draft, free agency, or trade, comes with inherent risk. That's why the smart teams like the Packers look to minimize cost while maximizing the number of additions they can make. This methodology allows for teams to whiff on multiple attempts while still ending up with a handful of useful players.

The key, of course, is finding these value deals. The Seahawks' 2010 swap of a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch represents the perfect example of how build through trades at low costs with minimal risks. At the time of that deal, Lynch was in the midst of his rookie contract with two more years remaining. Had he not worked out in Seattle, GM John Schneider could have released Lynch for a nominal cap penalty and the fourth-round pick. However, by recognizing that Lynch was under-utilized in Buffalo, the Seahawks turned a day 3 draft selection into a superstar.

Following the Seattle model, the Packers could make a low-risk, high-return trade for Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne.

Back in 2012, Dallas traded their first and second-round picks to move up eight spots and select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. Claiborne was the consensus top corner in the draft, and looked to be a great fit for then-Cowboys' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's defense.

One year later, Ryan was fired and Jerry Jones brought in 73-year-old Monte Kiffin as his replacement. With the coordinator switch came the seismic shift from an attacking 3-4 to Kiffin's wide-nine, Tampa-2 defense. That scheme had no place for a man-to-man corner like Claiborne.

It's fair to say that Claiborne has been a liability for Dallas so far in his young career. Part of the fault lies with Jerry Jones, who miscalculated Claiborne's value during the 2012 NFL Draft. However, it's inarguable that the Cowboys' scheme change contributed significantly to his decline. With the Tampa-2 set to remain in Dallas for the foreseeable future, it's possible that the team would accept far less than their original investment to send Claiborne out of town.

Perhaps the Packers, with their full allotment of picks (and a pair of anticipated compensatory selections) are the right team to snatch up Claiborne from the Cowboys.

In Green Bay, Claiborne would once again be matched with the right defense. In Capers zone-blitz scheme, corners are often left in man-to-man coverage in a cover-one formation. Claiborne's size and man coverage ability would make him an ideal wide corner in this scenario. In a division that features Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Cordarrelle Patterson, adding an athletic, man-coverage corner could go a long way towards slowing down opposing offenses.

Claiborne would also offset some of the Packers' potential losses at cornerback. Sam Shields, the team's top corner the past two seasons, hits unrestricted free agency this year. While the Packers are expected to make a strong play to retain him, another team may offer more than Ted Thompson is willing to spend. Perhaps in tandem, Tramon Williams may be asked to take a pay cut in order to finance Shields' new deal. If an agreement can't be made, Williams could be released. Furthermore, even if he survives the offseason, the soon to be 31-year-old cornerback may not receive another contract from Green Bay when his current deal expires after 2014. Given that the Packers other top cornerbacks, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, project better as slot corners than on the outside, adding a piece like Claiborne could be imperative.

As with all things, the viability of such a trade would depend on the compensation. Despite being drafted in the top 10 two years ago, Claiborne's value plummeted following his train wreck 2013 campaign. Compounding the matter for Dallas is its salary cap situation. Currently estimates place the Cowboys around $25 million over the limit while projecting their cap figure to remain problematic in 2015. By trading Claiborne, the Cowboys would not get a cap benefit in 2014, but would free up over $5 million in 2015 cap savings. This would significantly reducing their cap burden for when Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray all hit free agency together. Accordingly, the idea of trading the former sixth overall pick for a mid-round pick and cap relief may be too enticing to turn down. If a trade can be consummated for a fourth-round pick, both sides would benefit.

Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Hook'em Headlines. His work has previously appeared on Beats Per Minute, Lombardi Ave, and College Hoops Net.
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