Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says CB Morris Claiborne has justified a fifth year, but DT Henry Melton another story

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave different answers Tuesday when asked about the future of two key defensive players, providing an idea of the direction they could go with the contracts of defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Morris Claiborne.

Jones was optimistic about Claiborne’s future with the club. The Cowboys have until May 3 to exercise a fifth-year option on the 2012 first-round pick that would guarantee him a big payday in 2016.

Jones was asked if he believes Claiborne has done enough to justify the club picking up his fifth-year option.

“Yes,” Jones responded quickly from the Senior Bowl. “Yes, I do.”

Claiborne signed a four-year, $16.4 million contract with the Cowboys when they selected him sixth overall out of LSU. The Cowboys have a club option for adding a fifth year to Claiborne’s contract. If they don’t, he could become an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. If they decide to exercise their fifth-year option, Claiborne would receive the 2015 transition tag money for a cornerback. That’s estimated to be about $11 million, and it would be fully guaranteed for injury.

Claiborne has struggled in his time with the Cowboys. He’s played in only 29 of a possible 50 games in three seasons. He suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee in the Cowboys’ fourth game in 2014 that ended his season. Claiborne also had his right knee scoped a few weeks ago.

Melton has also battled injuries. The Cowboys signed Melton as a free agent last offseason in hopes he’d return to his Pro Bowl form from his days in Chicago. Melton signed a one-year deal with a three-year option.

If Melton is on the Cowboys’ roster March 10 – the first day of the 2015 league year – he would receive a three-year contract extension that would average $8 million per season and include $9 million guaranteed in 2015.

Melton played in only three games for the Bears in 2013 before suffering a season-ending torn left anterior cruciate ligament. In his first season with the Cowboys, Melton didn’t perform at a Pro Bowl level and the club isn’t likely to pick up his three-year option at that kind of price. Melton finished with five sacks last season and landed on injured reserve in late December because of a bone bruise in his right knee.

Jones was asked if he saw enough from Melton in 2014 to warrant picking up his three-year option.

“I think we all had hoped from the day that he got there and OTAs that he would be at Pro Bowl form,” Jones said. “That was probably unrealistic, but that’s a goal. As he went through the season, he evolved and improved. He had a setback or two that I would call nicks, probably impacted his overall steady progression to back to where he was that year in Chicago (2012) before he got hurt. But in general, I did see progress with how he rehabbed from his injury. I know that we’re eons better off today relative to rehabbing his injury than he was when we started training camp.” (Courtesy of DallasNews.com)

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