Atlanta Falcons: The Case for Re-Signing Adrian Clayborn

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 12: Dak Prescott (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 12: Dak Prescott (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The seven-year veteran is set to be a free agent this offseason. Here’s why the Atlanta Falcons should consider keeping Adrian Clayborn in Atlanta.

Since signing with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, Adrian Clayborn has proven to be a solid rotational piece along the defensive line. Although he’s only started in 14 games the past three years, Clayborn gives Dan Quinn much needed depth at the defensive line position and is one of the team’s best pass rushers.

Here are three reasons why Thomas Dimitroff and the Atlanta front office should consider re-signing Clayborn.

1. Provides depth at DE

Defensive line is a unit that requires depth, and is especially true for Dan Quinn’s system. In 2017, the Falcons rotated up to ten different defensive lineman when healthy. Who tallied the most snaps at defensive end, you might ask? That would be Clayborn, who played 52.86% of the team’s defensive snaps.

This attests to Clayborn’s durability, as he’s missed just three regular season games in his three years as an Atlanta Falcon. Clayborn can be counted on to give the Falcons lots of snaps at defensive end.

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Along with Clayborn, there are three other Falcon defensive lineman that are hitting free agency this offseason (Poe, Upshaw, Rubin). If Atlanta chooses to not re-sign any of those three, the importance of re-signing Clayborn will only increase. The Falcons would almost certainly have to draft or sign another defensive end in free agency to fill Clayborn’s void if they let him walk.

2. Quality pass rusher

Clayborn can not only be counted on to give the Falcons snaps, but he also can be counted on to do so at a high level. His 9.5 sacks in 2017 were a team-best, including an absurd six-sack annihilation of the Cowboys’ offensive line. During his three years as a Falcon, Clayborn has the second-most sacks behind only Vic Beasley.

Clayborn also led the team in quarterback hits with 18, showing that he still affects the QB even when he’s not getting sacks.

Clayborn’s 2017 PFF grade of 85.5 placed in the “High Quality” category, ranking him as the 19th highest edge player.

Losing the team’s sack leader would be a huge loss, and one that the Falcons cannot afford. Since Quinn’s arrival in Atlanta, he’s helped turn one of the worst defensive lines into an above average unit.

In his first year, the Falcons ranked last in the NFL with a mere 19 sacks. The Falcons jumped to 16th in 2016, and improved once again in 2017 as they ranked 13th in the NFL.

Clayborn has played a key role in this defensive line rebuild. Re-singing Clayborn will help Quinn continue to improve Atlanta’s pass rush.

3. Mentor for younger defensive ends

Finally, Clayborn could serve as an excellent mentor for the younger Falcon pass rushers.

Dwight Freeney served this same role when he was with the team in 2016. That same year, Vic Beasley came out of his sophomore slump, racking up a league-high 15.5 sacks.

Clayborn could continue to mentor the young edge rushers like Beasley and Takk McKinley, as he may have been doing last year as well. Entering his eighth year and turning 30 this offseason, Clayborn would be one of Atlanta’s most experienced defensive ends.

This veteran presence is important on the field and in the locker room as well. With how young the Atlanta defense is, having veterans on the roster is important to help guide and mentor the younger players.

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Clayborn has been a solid pass rusher throughout his career, and deserves at least another year in Atlanta. Re-signing him should be a priority for the Falcons’ front office this offseason.