The Falcons signed Adrian Clayborn to a team-friendly, prove it deal two weeks ago. By at least one account, it's the most value-oriented (i.e., the most bang for your buck) defensive lineman signing since free agency began. The expectation is that Clayborn can replicate some version his rookie self, a year when he turned in a +13.6 pass rush rating.
The talented Jeanna Thomas did an excellent, must-read piece about Clayborn late last week. If you haven't read it yet, stop reading this and go read it. Immediately. Then come back, because I'm about to make some solid points.
So how does Clayborn regain his form? Well, to be frank, it may just happen organically. Clayborn has struggled to stay healthy since his impressive rookie season. He's missed 28 games since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him in the first round of the 2011 draft. He's also reuniting with Raheem Morris, who drafted him during his time as head coach of the Buccaneers. Combine improved health with Morris' influence and he may revert to his old self in record time.
Another possibility is money. I hate to say it, but money talks. Clayborn will earn $1 million in base salary this season. He stands to earn another $1.25 million if he makes the 53 man roster and racks up an undisclosed number of sacks. I'm not intimately familiar with Clayborn's finances, but if I had to guess, he wants that incentive money. That said, if an extra $1.25 million was all it took to reignite a player's career, there'd be a lot less retirement paperwork on file with the NFLPA. But there's more to it in Clayborn's case. He's trying to earn a long-term deal, and 2015 will be a year-long tryout.
There's nobody on this Earth that wants Clayborn to succeed more than Clayborn himself. It couldn't have felt good when the Buccaneers declined his fifth-year option. To be frank, he may never get back to where he was. But that shouldn't be his focus anyway. He only needs to stay healthy, absorb Quinn's scheme, and execute. The rest should take of itself.
What do you think? Is there an ideal approach or does this all come down to Clayborn staying healthy? Discuss!