Adrian Clayborn Reportedly Agrees to Contract with New England Patriots

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07:  Adrian Clayborn #99 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after sacking Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons let one of their top pass-rushers go, and Adrian Clayborn has agreed to join the New England Patriots on Friday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported it's a two-year, $12 million deal.

What a difference a year makes for Clayborn. In a piece for the Players' Tribune in January, he wrote he had considered retirement after tearing a biceps muscle in Atlanta's 2017 divisional-round win over the Seattle Seahawks: "I had been down that road before—a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in 2012, a torn right bicep in 2014, the torn MCL and meniscus in 2016. And let me tell you something: Rehab sucks. I didn't think I wanted to go through that again. I decided I'd rather just hang it up. I was ready to retire."

Clayborn not only continued playing but also registered a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2017, which is deceiving since six of those sacks came in Atlanta's 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10.

That still shouldn't obscure how well Clayborn played this past season, nor how important he was for Atlanta's defensive line. The Falcons were tied for 13th in sacks (39) as a team and ranked 16th in adjusted sack rate, according to Football Outsiders.

Take Clayborn out of the equation, and a defense that was solid when pressuring the quarterback could've easily fallen to a below-average level.

Considering he's coming off a career year, it's little surprise Clayborn won't be returning to Atlanta.

According to Spotrac, the Falcons have a little over $9 million in salary-cap space available, fifth-lowest in the league. 

Experienced pass-rushers can command big money in free agency, and this will likely be Clayborn's last chance to get a lucrative, multiyear contract. The 29-year-old wasn't going to give Atlanta a hometown discount.

The Falcons didn't need to go above and beyond to re-sign him, either. 

Brooks Reed is still signed for two more years, and the team has Takkarist McKinley waiting in the wings. The 2017 first-round draft pick had 20 combined tackles and six sacks as a rookie and figures to be a big part of the front seven down the line.

McKiney is poised to see a larger role in the defense with Clayborn out of the picture in 2018.

By leaving Atlanta, Clayborn may himself receive a promotion. Reed's presence prevented him from being a regular starter for the Falcons, so only 14 of his 45 appearances for the team came in a starting capacity.

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