NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport first reported that the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to re-sign defensive end Adrian Clayborn to a two-year deal. Per Rapoport, the deal is worth a base value of $9 million but could reach $14 million as a maximum value.
Clayborn, 27, is the first of the team’s own free agents set to return to Atlanta. He signed a one-year “prove-it” deal a year ago after spending four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his first season with the Falcons, Clayborn finished second on the team with three sacks. According to premium website Pro Football Focus, Clayborn did finish with a team-leading 15 quarterback hits however.
He started five games over the first half of the 2015 season, but was mostly utilized as a sub-package player for the Falcons. For the early part of the year, the bulk of his reps came as a defensive tackle on passing downs, but the Falcons slowly began to play him more as a defensive end at year’s end. Near the end of the year, defensive line coach Bryan Cox questioned his own coaching by blaming himself for not realizing earlier that Clayborn was more effective playing on the edge rather than inside.
Prior to joining the Falcons, Clayborn had four injury-mired seasons in Tampa, missing 15 games in 2014 and 13 in 2012 due to injuries. He played full seasons in 2011 and 2013, combining for 13 sacks in those two years.
Clayborn offers versatility for the Falcons with the ability to play inside or outside on their defensive line. With a more honed role, there is hope that he can help improve a Falcons pass rush that ranked dead last in the league with 19 sacks in 2015.