Adrian Clayborn

Falcons To Sign DE Adrian Clayborn

The Falcons are signing Adrian Clayborn, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The defensive end will return to Atlanta on a one-year deal worth up to $4MM. 

This marks a homecoming for Clayborn, who spent 2015-2017 with the Falcons. In his final Atlanta season, Clayborn registered a career-high 9.5 sacks, but his 2018 follow-up with the Patriots (2.5 sacks) was not quite as impressive.

In mid-March, the Pats cut him loose. The Patriots used Clayborn as a pass-rushing specialist and employed him in 14 regular season games. All in all, he played in 30% of the team’s defensive snaps last year, but he was a healthy scratch in the final two contests of the season.

Even if he’s lost a step, Clayborn fills a need for the Falcons on the defensive line.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Release Adrian Clayborn

The Patriots cut Adrian Clayborn on Friday. The defensive end broke the news himself on Twitter and indicated that he requested his own release.

Thank you Patriots for my time with the organization,” Clayborn wrote “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.”

The Patriots used Clayborn as a pass-rushing specialist and employed him in 14 regular season games. All in all, he played in 30% of the team’s defensive snaps last year, but he was a healthy scratch in the final two contests of the season. Following a 9.5-sack campaign with the Falcons in 2017, the veteran’s counting stats took a step back in 2018. Clayborn ultimately finished the season with 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

By releasing Clayborn, the Pats will save roughly $4MM against the 2019 cap. The move will leave New England with $2MM in dead money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Eagles, Gronk, Clayborn

Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com does not believe that there will be any tension between Carson Wentz and Nick Foles this year, but he does say that Foles is universally loved in the Eagles‘ locker room. Given that, and given that Foles led the club to its first Super Bowl victory in the wake of Wentz’s ACL tear last season, Shorr-Parks suggests that there is at least a small part of Wentz that feels the need to “re-prove himself” to his team. Shorr-Parks wonders if that desire will impact how quickly Wentz returns to the field and how he interacts with his veteran backup this year.

Let’s round up a few more east notes, starting with several additional items out of Philadelphia:

  • In the same piece linked above, Shorr-Parks says “it appears obvious” that the Eagles do not plan on paying DE Brandon Graham until next offseason at the earliest. Graham will be eligible for free agency at that point, but he is still seeking a long-term extension from Philadelphia prior to that, and Shorr-Parks’ suggestion is somewhat surprising in light of the fact that the Eagles were said to be working on a new contract for Graham in November (and in light of Graham’s on-field performance).
  • In two separate pieces, Shorr-Parks breaks down the Eagles’ current roster into long shots, locks, bubble players, and wildcards, and he also takes a look at some of the biggest names still remaining on the free agent market and whether Philadelphia could be interested in some of those players. He thinks the Eagles could be in play for some of the top available DBs — like Kenny Vaccaro and Bashaud Breeland — but does not see a fit for top WR Dez Bryant or LB Brian Cushing (though he thinks a reunion with Jeremy Maclin should not be ruled out).
  • Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com evaluates the Giants‘ top positional battles going into OTAs, and he believes the fight for the backup QB job is the most intriguing. Second-year pro Davis Webb has a stronger arm than rookie Kyle Lauletta, but Lauletta receives high marks for his intelligence and accuracy, plus he was drafted by Big Blue’s new regime. Whoever wins the job will be the favorite to ultimately succeed Eli Manning.
  • It is unclear whether Rob Gronkowski will report to the Patriots for Phase 3 of the team’s offseason program, which begins tomorrow, though Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says Gronk is still putting in plenty of time at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, which he says has him feeling good from a conditioning perspective. Phase 3 will be the last chance for Gronkowski and Tom Brady — who is also yet to attend OTAs — to get some multiple-week football work in with the majority of their teammates before training camp. Brady has frequently touted the importance of Phase 3, so it would be notable if he does not attend.
  • Adrian Clayborn, the Patriots‘ top free agent acquisition this offseason, tweaked his quad during recent workouts, per Reiss. Clayborn could be limited for Phase 3 of OTAs, but he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Patriots Rumors: Manziel, Bielema, Clayborn

The Patriots’ drafting of former LSU quarterback Danny Etling in the seventh round of last month’s draft signaled an end to any chance of the team taking a chance on free-agent quarterback Johnny Manziel, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

Reiss believes the team did its due diligence in scouting Manziel’s comeback attempt, including attending his workout at the University of San Diego pro day this year. The team even considered holding an additional workout for him outside of the pro day, per Reiss.

The Patriots traditionally carry three quarterbacks and by drafting Etling they’ve reached that number, with Tom Brady as the starter and Brian Hoyer backing him up.

Here’s more from the Patriots:

  • Former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has continued in his role with the Patriots following the conclusion of the draft, per ESPN’s Field Yate, and Yates also reports that he’s expected to be involved in coaching duties as the team begins its rookie minicamp Monday. Brett Bielema was fired as head coach of Arkansas last November after coaching the team for five seasons.
  • Adrian Clayborn has playing-time incentives written into his two-year, $10-million contract that are worth up to $1.5 million, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Clayborn can make $300,000 f0r playing up to 55 percent of the team’s snaps, $300,000 for 60 percent, $400,000 for 65 percent and $500,000 for 75 percent. Volin notes, though, that Clayborn never played more than 52 percent of the snaps during his first last three seasons with the Falcons.
  • We learned earlier Sunday that Patriots guard Joe Thuney is expected to undergo foot surgery but is expected to be back in time for training camp.

Contract Details: A. Smith, Pugh, Curry, ASJ

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently signed NFL contracts:

AFC

  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE (Jaguars): Two years, $10MM. $4MM guaranteed. $3.21MM signing bonus. $500K 2019 option bonus. $500K annually available via catch, playoff, and touchdown incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE (Patriots): Two years, $10MM. $5.5MM guaranteed. $4MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).
  • Albert Wilson, WR (Dolphins): Three years, $24MMM. $14.45MM guaranteed. $4.5MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Marcus Gilchrist, S (Raiders): One year, $4MM. $3.85MM guaranteed. $1.85MM signing bonus. $1MM available via playtime, interceptions, and Pro Bowl incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Tramaine Brock, CB (Broncos): One year, $3MM. Fully guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus. $1MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News).
  • Seantrel Henderson, T (Texans): One year, $4MM. $1MM guaranteed. $500K signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

NFC

  • Alex Smith, QB (Redskins): Four years, $94MM. $55MM guaranteed. $27MM signing bonus (Twitter links via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com and Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com).
  • Justin Pugh, OL (Cardinals): Five years, $45.025MM. $15.75MM guaranteed. $10MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle).
  • Vinny Curry, DE (Buccaneers): Three years, $23MM. $6.5MM guaranteed (Twitter link via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times).
  • Zach Brown, LB (Redskins): Three years, $21MM. $10MM guaranteed. $4.5MM signing bonus. $1MM annually available in Pro Bowl, All-Pro incentives (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Ed Dickson, TE (Seahawks): Three years, $10.7MM. $3.6MM guaranteed. $2.6MM signing bonus. $1.1MM annually available via catch, yards, and Pro Bowl incentive (Twitter link via Wilson).
  • Aaron Lynch, LB/DE (Bears): One year, $4MM. $1.25MM guaranteed. $1MM signing bonus (Twitter link via Wilson).

Patriots Sign DE Adrian Clayborn

The Patriots made a big splash in free agency on Friday, reaching an agreement with the veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets. The player made the announcement on Friday via Instagram.

It is a two-year deal with a maximum value of $12.5MM, according to Schefter (Twitter link).

New England can use all the pass rush help it can get, as the club ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate a year ago. Clayborn can help with that, as the 29-year-old managed a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2017. However, Clayborn famously posted six of those sacks in one game against overpowered Cowboys left tackle Chaz Green.

Earlier in free agency, Pro Football Rumors listed help along the front seven as the most pressing need for the Patriots entering the 2018 offseason. It’s safe to say they began to fulfill that need on Friday with this signing.

With the move, Clayborn will slide in as a starter at defensive end, joining, among others, Lawrence Guy, Malcom BrownDeatrich Wise Jr. and Trey Flowers on the Patriots’ front four depth chart.

A first-round selection in 2011, Clayborn spent four seasons in Tampa Bay making 13 sacks. He missed nearly two full campaigns with injuries. He moved to Atlanta and became a solid contributor on the Falcons defensive front, helping them reach Super Bowl LI against his new team.

[RELATED: Patriots Depth Chart]

 

Patriots To Meet With DE Adrian Clayborn

The Patriots will plan to host free agent defensive end Adrian Clayborn, according to Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

New England can use all the pass rush help it can get, as the club ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate a year ago. Clayborn can help with that, as the 29-year-old managed 9.5 sacks in 2017. However, Clayborn famously posted six of those sacks in one game against overpowered Cowboys left tackle Chaz Green.

While the Patriots appear to be Clayborn’s first free agent visit, he is not wanting for overall interest. The Colts, Buccaneers, Browns, and the incumbent Falcons are all eyeing a pact with Clayborn, who — unsurprisingly — is being targeted by clubs that run predominantly 4-3 schemes.

PFR ranked Clayborn as the No. 7 edge defender heading into free agency, but three of the pass rushers listed above him — Julius Peppers, William Hayes, and Trent Murphy — have already landed new contracts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Top 25 Remaining NFL Free Agents

Many of this year’s top free agents came off of the board during the legal tampering period, including Kirk Cousins, Trumaine Johnson, Sammy Watkins, and Allen Robinson. Still plenty of the names from our list of the Top 50 Free Agents remain, including some new additions. Here’s a rundown of the players to keep an eye on as free agency officially begins, ranked roughly by their expected contract value:

1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): The Dolphins bailed on Suh’s mega contract midway through, freeing him up to sign another high-priced contract. He won’t get anything close to a six-year, $114MM deal this time around, but he should settle in at an AAV that keeps him among the best compensated players at his position. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Suh fifth among 122 interior defenders. 

2. Tyrann Mathieu, S (Cardinals): The Cardinals worked feverishly to hammer out a new contract with the Honey Badger, but the two sides could not come to terms on a deal to lessen his 2018 cap hit. He has been released, allowing him to hit free agency as the best safety available. The Jets are not believed to be interested, despite his connection with head coach Todd Bowles. The other tenant of the Meadowlands, however, could have interest thanks to the presence of former Arizona DC James Bettcher.

3. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson may have lost some luster following the trade that sent him from the Jets to the Seahawks, but he among the best defensive tackles currently available. With plenty of cap space remaining, Richardson should find a lucrative deal, though it probably won’t come from Seattle. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will fetch about $9MM/year.

4. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe missed out on a big payday last year when teams shied away from him due to lingering back issues. After turning in his second consecutive 16-game season, things could be different this time. For the record – Poe has missed only two regular season games over the course of his career, so he boasts a better attendance record than a lot of other veterans on this list. He’s unlikely to circle back to Atlanta.

5. Josh Sitton, G (Bears): With Andrew Norwell off of the board, Sitton stands as the best guard on the market. He’s missed six games over the last two years, but he has four Pro Bowl appearances to his credit. He’s set to meet with the Dolphins.

6. A.J. McCarron, QB (Bengals): It’s difficult to peg McCarron’s value heading into free agency. Outside of some quality starts in 2015, there isn’t much film out there on McCarron, despite that fact that he has spent four years in the NFL. Hue Jackson was itching to reunite with McCarron, but the Browns no longer seem a likely destination for him after the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor. It’s also hard to see him landing with the QB-needy Jets after they re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater. McCarron will find a home, but it may not be as a starter. [UPDATE: McCarron has signed with the Bills]

7. E.J. Gaines, CB (Bills): Injuries in the fall limited Gaines to just 11 games last season, but he proved to be a quality return for the Bills in the Watkins trade, in addition to the second-round pick that came with him. Gaines graded out as the No. 13 cornerback in the league last year, per PFF, and he just turned 26 in February. Gaines missed all of ’15 due to injury and didn’t look all that sharp in ’16, but timing is everything in free agency. You can expect multiple teams to call on him and the Texans could still have interest, even after inking Aaron Colvin.

8. Eric Reid, S (49ers): Reid is just 26 and is undoubtedly a starting quality safety. He has both youth and versatility on his side, but it’s possible that his anthem protest participation could hurt him when it comes to some suitors. Injuries over the last two seasons will hurt his market as well.

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Five Teams In On DE Adrian Clayborn

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn is drawing interest from a number of teams. The Patriots, Colts, Bucs, Browns, and the incumbent Falcons are all in the mix, a source tells Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Clayborn led the Falcons with 9.5 sacks last season, a career high, and entered free agency as one of our top 50 free agents available. Nearly two-thirds of that total came against the Cowboys when Tyron Smith was sidelined. With more than half of that list spoken for, he now stands as one of the best edge rushers available.

Clayborn graded out as PFF’s No. 19 ranked edge defender in 2017. Each of these teams utilize a 4-3 scheme, a setup in which Clayborn has spent his entire NFL career.

A Bucs reunion is in play. Tampa Bay, which let Clayborn walk in 2015 after an injury-riddled run in south Florida, has Robert Ayers and William Gholston penciled in as starters. The Colts hold more than $7oMM in cap space and have yet to make much of a splash thus far on the market. They are converting to a 4-3 look and could use proven linemen. The Browns have already added rotational cog Chris Smith and also have Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib as Myles Garrett complements. New England skated by without much depth at end last season but has Trey Flowers back and some unproven young cogs as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s Top 50 NFL Free Agents For 2018 1.0

There will be tons of free agents available in March, but only a some of them can be real difference makers for your favorite team. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve assembled our early list of the Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2018.

Our early version of the NFL’s top 50 free agents may include players who will be re-signed between now and March 14. When we update this list next week, a few of the big names will be spoken for while new high-profile names will join the fray as veterans become cap casualties.

Recently, we broke down the top free agents by position on both offense and defense, but our rankings below may not have each player listed in the same order. Those position lists took the short-term value of a player into account more heavily, meaning many players in their 30s received prominent placement. Our overall top 50 list favors longer-term value, and is more about forecasting which players will be in highest demand when it comes to years and dollars.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2018:

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (Redskins): At long last, Kirk Cousins is headed towards unrestricted free agency. You may or may not regard Cousins as a star, but he is the best quarterback in recent history to reach the open market and QB-needy teams will be rolling out the red carpet for him. The Jets, Vikings, Broncos, and Cardinals have been named as the top suitors for his services, but the NFL is full of surprises this time of year and we would not be surprised to see other teams get involved. The cash-flush Browns are reportedly keen on signing a lower-cost vet and drafting a QB early, but who’s to say they won’t change course and get in on the Cousins sweepstakes? The Bills, Giants, Dolphins, Bucs, and Colts could also consider kicking the tires here, but there are obstacles in that bunch ranging from established starters already in place (Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Andrew Luck) to financial constraints. No matter where he goes, it’s almost certain that Cousins will become the league’s highest-paid player of all-time. That is, until another top-tier QB signs a contract extension soon after.

2. Drew Brees (Saints): There are multiple possibilities for Cousins but it’s hard to see a scenario in which Brees actually leaves the Saints. Brees has already said that he does not plan on testing free agency, so he’ll likely put pen to paper before things begin on March 14. As far as we can tell, the only way Brees will think about leaving is if he is lowballed to an extreme degree by the Saints, but that seems improbable based on his history with the team

3. Case Keenum (Vikings): One year ago, no one ever would have expected Keenum to be one of 2018’s most sought-after free agents. The Vikings signed the former Rams signal caller to a one-year, $2MM deal in March with the idea that he would back up Sam Bradford and, eventually slide down to third on the depth chart when/if Teddy Bridgewater returned to full health. When Bradford went down in September, Keenum exceeded all expectations and put together the best season of his career. The 30-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked QB in 2017, putting him above the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, Matthew Stafford, and Tyrod Taylor. With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings earned a first-round bye and beat the Saints in a playoff thriller before succumbing to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Of course, after four seasons of mediocrity, teams are wondering whether this was an aberration or a real sign of things to come. Teams know that Keenum is not a lock, but he’s also the best Plan B for any team that loses out on Cousins or doesn’t have the means to sign him.

4. Andrew Norwell, G (Panthers): There was a time when tackles were the only offensive linemen to really cash in on the open market. That’s no longer the case, as evidenced by the contracts of Kevin Zeitler (five years, $60MM) and Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5MM). Osemele inked his free agent deal with the Raiders in 2016 and Zeitler signed his in the 2017 offseason. Given the cap increase and the natural progression of the market, Norwell figures to reset the market for interior linemen. Keenum figures to gross no less than $20MM/year on his next contract, so he’s slotted behind him, but an average annual value of $13-14MM is not out of the question for the former undrafted free agent.

5. Nate Solder, OT (Patriots): Solder isn’t coming off of his best season and he might be the least sexy name in the top ten. Still, there’s a dearth of tackles league-wide and Solder has been among the league’s best at his position for quite some time. The Patriots are bracing for Solder to leave as they fear he’ll garner offers of $12MM/year. No other tackle in this year’s free agent crop is even close to him in terms of ability, so we’re also buying into the hype. Injuries contributed to Solder’s up-and-down season, particularly early on, so teams will take that into account when evaluating him.

6. Allen Robinson, WR (Jaguars): The Jaguars opted against using the franchise tag on Robinson, which is understandable since they have limited cap space. Robinson missed almost all of 2017 with an ACL tear, but his 2015 season (and even his so-so 2016 campaign) gives teams reason to believe that he can be a quality WR1. Robinson is one of only two such players on the unrestricted market, so expect him to get paid. Robinson probably couldn’t do worse than Kenny Britt‘s four-year, $32MM deal with the Browns from last season (and he should do a whole lot better), but if he is underwhelmed by the multi-year offers he receives, he could always go the Alshon Jeffery route. Jeffery inked a one-year, $9.5MM prove-it deal with the Eagles and that turned out to be a smashing success for both parties. Jeffery was rewarded with a four-year, $52MM extension in December, so Robinson’s camp will surely be open to a pillow contract if necessary. 

7. Sammy Watkins, WR (Rams): Some may view Robinson and Watkins as 1A and 1B in this year’s wide receiver class, particularly since Robinson missed all of 2017 and Watkins, despite his own injury history, played in all but one of the Rams’ games. Unfortunately, Watkins did not have the platform year he was hoping for as he caught just 39 passes for 593 yards. If we strike Robinson’s lost year and Watkins’ down year from the record, the breakdown favors the Jags receiver – Robinson averaged 77 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns per 16 games in that set versus Watkins’ 66 grabs for 1,063 yards and seven scores. These two should come pretty close in average annual value, but we give the edge to Robinson.

8. Trumaine Johnson, CB (Rams): Players often bemoan the franchise tag, but Johnson can’t really complain after receiving two consecutive tags from the Rams and earning more than $30MM between 2016 and 2017. The Rams, rightfully, did not consider a third consecutive tag for Johnson at a cost of ~$20MM and they already have his replacement in Marcus Peters. That’s one suitor down, but plenty of other teams will be eager to speak with Johnson, who profiles as the best cornerback in a deep class.

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT (Seahawks): Richardson gave the Jets lots of headaches, but he also gave them high-end production. He didn’t quite match that production in Seattle, but Richardson is positioned for a massive payday anyway since impactful defensive linemen are at a premium. Our own Dallas Robinson estimates that Richardson will garner about $9MM/year, but I would say that is his floor. The top-end of free agency rarely yields team-friendly deals, so Richardson could easily creep into eight figures in AAV, particularly since he does not turn 28 until November.

10. Dontari Poe, DT (Falcons): Poe thought he was in for a monster contract last offseason, but concerns about his lingering back issues forced him to take a one-year, $8MM deal with Atlanta. Teams may still worry about his back being a ticking time bomb, but perhaps they’ll view him in a different light now that he has played back-to-back 16 game seasons and has only missed two regular season contests over the course of his career.

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