IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will exercise the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith's deal in the near future, paying him $10.39 million in 2015 if they cannot reach a long-term agreement before then.
What about the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2012, cornerback Morris Claiborne?
As much as paying Smith is a sure thing, the decision with Claiborne's option in 2016 is as up in the air. They will have to make the decision by May 2015, which means Claiborne will have to answer a few questions first.
The transition tag for cornerbacks in 2014 is $10.081 million, so figure that number will increase in 2015 by the time the Cowboys have to make up their minds on Claiborne's future.
The Cowboys gave up their first- and second-round picks to the St. Louis Rams to move up to take Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. He has two interceptions in two seasons. He lost his job to Orlando Scandrick in 2013 in part because of injury but also because Scandrick was playing better.
There is no guarantee he will be a starter in 2014 either.
Claiborne's health has been an issue since he was picked. He arrived with a cast on his surgically repaired left wrist in 2012. He also suffered a knee injury in camp. Last year he hurt his shoulder in the season opener and missed games with a hamstring injury. He had shoulder and finger surgery in the offseason.
If Claiborne has the type of season in 2014 the Cowboys were hoping he could have when they made the bold move to take him, then they could pick up his option as a way to guarantee they are keeping a player at a premium spot, especially if Brandon Carr does not bounce back.
They could just as easily get out of the option by the first day of the 2016 league year by rescinding the offer. The option is only guaranteed for injury at the time the team elects to pick it up. If Claiborne is on the roster for the first day of the league year, it is guaranteed for injury and skill.
The Cowboys manage their salary cap years in advance. They know the ramifications of picking up Claiborne's option and not picking it up. They are scheduled to be in good shape, but also have long-term decisions to make on Smith, Dez Bryant and possibly DeMarco Murray this summer and next summer that could eat into that space.
Claiborne can help the Cowboys with their decision by living up to the expectations in 2014.