FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Whether it was intentional or not, Jets coach Todd Bowles hinted there is a cornerback competition opposite starter Trumaine Johnson.
Johnson was the Jets’ high-priced free-agent addition, inking a five-year, $72.5-million deal with $34 million in guarantees.
Last season, the Jets started Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne at cornerback. But now, Bowles won’t commit to either Skrine or Claiborne as the starter opposite Johnson.
“I think all 11 spots on each side of the ball are open,” Bowles said after Tuesday’s organized team activity practice. “There are people that can start first team at the end of the preseason, we’ll see who ends up first team. It doesn’t necessarily mean we have starters right now.”
Skrine had just one interception and nine pass breakups last season, overcoming a difficult stretch early in the season where he committed too many penalties and struggled in pass coverage. Claiborne also had just one interception, but had eight pass breakups in 15 games last season. It was the most games Claiborne has played in since 2012, his rookie season with the Cowboys. Claiborne fought through a sore foot during the second half of the season and was probably the best corner on the team.
Claiborne had several teams inquire about his services during free agency, but elected to remain with the Jets, signing a one-year deal worth more than $7 million with incentives.
Skrine enters the final year of his contract. He’s scheduled to earn a base salary of $6 million in 2018.
The Jets, like most teams, use three cornerbacks because opposing offenses line up three wide receivers along with a pass catching tight end.
In the early stages of the OTAs, Skrine and Johnson were with the first team. Claiborne came in when there were three receivers on the field.
Skrine is better suited to play in the slot on passing downs as Claiborne and Johnson are more outside cornerbacks.
Claiborne suffered a bruised left hand and is wearing a soft cast so his availability for the rest of the offseason practices is unclear.
Skrine will likely get more reps with Johnson as the Jets try to settle in on their starting cornerbacks.
As of now, Johnson is considered the best corner on the team.
“He’s not just bump-and-run, Trumaine is a good football player,” Bowles said. “He’s a zone corner, he can tackle, he’s very heady, he can see. He understands the game and since he’s got here, from his workouts to what he brings on the field to how he approaches the game, has been outstanding, especially for the young guys. A true pro.”