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Report: FA DE Adrian Clayborn not expected back in Atlanta

One of Atlanta’s best pass rushers of the Dan Quinn era might be out the door.

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s a lot of news going around the Falcons watering hole about Michael Bennett being traded to Atlanta, now with NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport linking the Falcons to Seattle as a potential trade partner.

It’s no sure deal, and another team could blow Seattle away with a last-ditch pitch (hopefully not one within the division). But, as of now, Atlanta might be the favorite to land the versatile rusher.

But, with potential additions come potential subtractions.

ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reported that impending Falcons DE FA Adrian Clayborn is expected to be out the door this offseason.

The Falcons actually improved their sack numbers last season with 39, as opposed to 34 during the 2016 season. Adrian Clayborn led the way with 9.5 sacks, but Clayborn is expected to play elsewhere this coming season as an unrestricted free agent.

The potential addition of Bennett would make Clayborn’s return moot for Atlanta, since both players would essentially play the same role in Dan Quinn’s defense, and would cost about the same amount of money on the cap. After all, Clayborn did put up 9.5 sacks this season and comes with the bonus of playing for Quinn. Teams are going to want him.

He’s earned a big contract from a team needing pass rush help, and if the Falcons lands Bennett, it’d even itself out. And, really, it’d be an upgrade for both parties. Atlanta would get an edge guy who can kick inside and is known for both his violent pass rush and run defending. Clayborn could get more snaps elsewhere, and make what he’s worth, which these days, is a pretty penny.

The danger comes with Atlanta not going through with the Bennett trade, and losing Clayborn at the same time. That leaves a sizable hole at defensive end, along with Dontari Poe’s exit (Troy Pauline reported that Poe’s expected to land a major deal, coupling itself with Thomas Dimitroff hinting Poe won’t be back), you’ve got some major needs on the defensive line to tend to. The edge class in FA isn’t so hot, to be honest, and any rookie will have to take 2018 to develop unless they hit right out the gate. Atlanta’s got a window for a championship, and no matter what rookies they bring in, they’ll have to have guys that can contribute now. Bennett can do that.

As for Clay, he’s been an excellent pass rusher for Atlanta since arriving in 2015, and he’d be missed. But, if another team can pay him properly and give him meaningful snaps, it’s a departure that’d be best for Clayborn in the long run.

As for the Falcons, with Clayborn likely gone, it’s time we all cross our fingers for this Bennett trade to come through. If it doesn’t, the team has two big decisions to make on their defensive line, and two rookies filling those holes might see a bit of a dip in production. The opportunity for Atlanta to nab a heck of an edge rusher and run defender is on the table; they’ve just got to make it happen.

As for Clayborn, if this is farewell, we, of course, wish him well wherever he goes. He more than deserves the deal he’s sure to get.