When we learned Adrian Clayborn was not going to be with the Patriots this season, the natural question to ask was whether he might return to the Falcons. Clayborn played some of his best football as a rotational defensive end for Atlanta, after all, and he played well and graded out well in 2018 despite not piling up sacks.
The answer to that question, happily, appears to be yes.
Veteran DE Adrian Clayborn is heading back to the Falcons, agreeing to terms with Atlanta, per a source.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) April 9, 2019
Clayborn, who will turn 31 in July, put up 17 sacks in three seasons with Atlanta, playing in 45 of a possible 48 games during his last stint with the Falcons. He was a valuable rotational pass rusher and a quality run stopper, which ensured he got tons of run for the team both before and after Takkarist McKinley joined up. While he put up just 2.5 sacks in 14 games with the Patriots last year, he was still good against the run and still managed 13 quarterback hits, very much in line with the kind of production he was putting up in Atlanta from 2015-2017.
We don’t know the structure yet, but it appears it will come with incentives, and this is a signing I’m fully on board with. The Falcons were dreadfully thin at defensive end and counting on a big step forward from Takk McKinley (which I think will happen), major improvement from Vic Beasley (which I’m less certain about), and significant snaps from Steven Means. Bringing back Clayborn gives them a proven, well-rounded defensive end with experience in Dan Quinn’s defense to rotate in and take on a larger role if anyone falters, and it can’t help but boost a pass rush that was uncertain to say the least heading into next year. The team still has room to add a pure pass rusher at defensive end in the draft or an impact defensive tackle, but Clayborn’s signing at least gives them a solid group of seven players along the defensive line before the draft ever happens.
We welcome Clay back warmly and hope he’s ready to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks again in 2019.