As comes with the NFL, you never know when a surprise could fall in your lap. Friday morning, a bit of a shock landed regarding a former Atlanta Falcons defensive end.
The Patriots released DE Adrian Clayborn, per his request.
Thank you @Patriots for my time with the organization. I gained so much respect for how you do things and win championships. It’s done the right way through hard work. Thank you for granting my release. I’m ready for this next chapter.— Adrian Clayborn (@AJaClay) March 15, 2019
Letting Clayborn walk to the Patriots was one of Atlanta’s sincere blunders in 2018, a contract we all know they would’ve loved to have brokered in retrospect.
Clay went on to have a quieter season with the Pats (2.5 sacks in 11 regular season games) after his monstrous 2017 9.5-sack campaign, though New England is known to love to rotate its defensive ends. He was set to make $5.9 million with the Patriots this season before his release (per Spotrac).
With his resume and the money being given to pass rushers this spring, Clayborn could get a pretty good deal somewhere. He’ll be 31 in July, and no doubt has some good football left in his tank. If Atlanta struck a multi-year deal and gave him some guaranteed cash to offset a lesser cap hit in 2019, this really could work out well for both parties.
Atlanta badly needs a player like Clayborn on its defensive line again, one with the versatility to play inside and out and who clearly thrives in Dan Quinn’s system. Clayborn could rebound with his old team and get his stats back up to where we all know they can be.
This feels like an obvious reunion, though money always plays a part. If Atlanta was only willing to offer him so much previously, would that change now, especially in light of the team’s needs and cap situation? Perhaps the sight of a Clayborn-less defensive line would amend that, proving his value to the defense was very much worth what the Patriots paid him last offseason.
Per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, the Falcons are also reportedly trying to get Bruce Irvin back, and it’s probably not likely that the money would work out to get both. Maybe it would if they work out a restructure or two? Who’s to say. But the team needs some sort of veteran rusher in-house this season, and it’d make total and complete sense to make it someone they already know and can depend on.
We’ll see how this plays out and if another team just outbids the Falcons for Clayborn (or even Irvin). If fortune favors the Falcons this time around, perhaps we’ll hear news of a wonderful return soon.