Friday marked a day of action for the Patriots, who quickly closed the deal with a trio of free agents that they brought in for visits. Headlining the group is former Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who is coming off a 9.5-sack season for Atlanta.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the Clayborn signing via Twitter, later adding that it’s a two-year deal worth up to $12.5 million. But that was just the start of the Pats’ moves, as Field Yates tweeted 19 minutes later that they’ve also signed ex-Bengals running back Jeremy Hill. And Mike Reiss topped it off when he reported the signing of tackle Matt Tobin, formerly of the Seahawks and Eagles.
All three players visited the Patriots on Friday before agreeing to their deals. The signings were all reported in a span of 47 minutes.
On paper, Clayborn is a legitimate threat on the edge to boost the Patriots’ pass rush. It’s worth noting, though, that six of Clayborn’s 9.5 sacks came in one game against the Dallas Cowboys. But, especially in New England’s system, sacks won’t be as important up front as general disruption. Clayborn should help the Pats generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks more consistently.
Hill, meanwhile, hopes to regain the power he showed in the second half of his impressive rookie campaign. Unfortunately, his last playoff game ended with a costly fumble in the 2015 AFC Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’s since tumbled down the Bengals’ depth chart in favor of 2017 second-round pick Joe Mixon.
After scoring 20 touchdowns in his first two years in the league, Hill last found the end zone in Week 15 of the 2016 season. He fumbled in Week 5 of 2017, but overall he’s lost the football just once in his last 22 games – so hopefully he’s over his early-career issues with ball security.
Tobin comes to the Patriots with experience at both tackle and guard. He played in 15 games for the Seahawks in 2017 as a reserve/special teams tackle, playing 81 offensive snaps and 94 on special teams. So he’s more likely to help in the latter area, and maybe add some depth to the offensive line.
But at the very least, the Clayborn signing should calm some of the palpable tension that built in New England over the course of the week. The departure of four key players from the 2017 Patriots felt ominous before these moves came down. Now it feels like the Patriots really getting to work on fixing their flaws from last season.
The Patriots still need to figure out left tackle, but they’ve at least addressed depth at the position. In Hill, they also grabbed a young running back who may have just needed a fresh opportunity. And on top of it all, Clayborn adds size and explosiveness to the Patriots’ pass-rushing packages and was arguably the best edge rusher available. He fills one of the team’s biggest needs, and if he plays to his potential he makes their beleaguered front-seven much more dangerous.
Does this qualify as a “splash”? Depends on your definition. But it was certainly a quick, decisive flurry of moves that could end up making a big difference.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.