Though many Patriots fans wanted their team to be more proactive in the early stages of free agency, New England has made major strides to improve their defense so far this offseason.
Their latest addition came Friday night when they signed defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The Patriots lacked pass-rush depth in 2017, and Clayborn projects as a starter opposite Trey Flowers. Flowers has spent most of his career as a left defensive end, while Clayborn has mostly played on the right side.
Clayborn has never recorded a double-digit sack season, but he’s a solid overall edge defender who brings some versatility to the Patriots’ defensive front. Clayborn had 9.5 sacks — six of which came in Week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys — and 56 total pressures in 2017. He ranked 10th — four spots above Flowers — in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush productivity last season.
Clayborn also can rush the passer from inside at defensive tackle. The Patriots lacked interior pass rushers in 2017.
Clayborn, who’s an oversized defensive end at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, primarily played defensive tackle in 2015, when he had three sacks and 44 total pressures. He ranked seventh among defensive tackles in pass-rush productivity that season.
Clayborn played under former Bill Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz in college at Iowa. He played under Bill Belichick’s buddy Greg Schiano for two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So, the Patriots know what they’re getting out of Clayborn from a character standpoint.
Clayborn will compete for snaps with Patriots defensive linemen Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Derek Rivers, Eric Lee, Keionta Davis and Geneo Grissom. Butler, who’s an undersized defensive tackle who also played defensive end as a rookie last season, is the player most comparable to Clayborn on the Patriots’ roster.
Clayborn reportedly signed a two-year deal with a maximum value of $12.5 million that likely includes per-game active roster bonuses. So, it’s a low-risk signing by the Patriots comparable to the deal signed by Jabaal Sheard in 2015.