One of the biggest knocks on the New England Patriots’ defense last season had to do with the fact their front seven scared no one. The defense lacked playmakers, particularly the kind who put pressure on the quarterback.

With the exception of Trey Flowers, no one was able to consistently get sacks. Quarterbacks never had much fear of being taken down.

That could change this season. The addition of Adrian Clayborn is certainly a step in the right direction.

Flowers needed a partner on his opposite side, another edge-setter/pass rusher as a bookend. Clayborn, who signed a two-year deal worth up to $12.5 million with $5.5 million guaranteed, is a younger, better, more pleasant version of James Harrison, who was brought aboard late in the year to try and fill that role.

Former Patriot Rodney Harrison said pass rusher is at the top of the Patriots’ needs this offseason, and he likes what Clayborn adds to the team.

“He has a great motor,” Harrison, now an NBC analyst, said via text. “He likes playing football and is genuinely happy for his teammates when they do well. I think he will have an immediate impact.”


He’ll help take the pressure off Flowers. Teams now won’t be able to consistently double Flowers, or just focus on taking him away with Clayborn on the other side.

Clayborn will also solve another issue, that of setting the edge on the opposite side of Flowers, which was a huge problem. At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, he has the size to stand up to linemen on the move.

Even though he was primarily used on third down to rush the passer or in sub situations while with the Falcons, Clayborn believes he can do more and be a three-down player.

“I know I can rush the passer, I know I can set the edge in the run,” he said. “I know there’s a couple different positions they think I can play, so it’s up to me to prove I can play them.”

Pro Football Focus rated Clayborn as the 19th best edge defender in the NFL last season. As a pass rusher, he ranked 13th.

Clayborn, who played for Bill Belichick’s disciple Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, described his playing style as “aggressive, hard-nosed – I like to play every play like it’s my last.”


Listening to the 29-year-old defensive end, there’s plenty to like and plenty of reasons to believe he will be successful in New England. He’s overcome a lot in his life, including Erb’s Palsy, a condition characterized by weakness or paralysis of the arm.

Looking at his backstory, he suffered nerve damage during a breech birth that caused weakness and loss of movement in his right arm. Clayborn went through a lot a physical therapy during his youth to eventually overcome the limitations caused by the disorder.

He told reporters he isn’t impacted by it now, except in the weight room.

“It doesn’t really affect me,” Clayborn said. “I’ve learned to compensate when I have to. I do what I gotta do to make the plays.”

Clayborn has also dealt with several major injuries throughout his career. He didn’t play against the Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl because of a torn biceps, his fourth major injury. He almost retired, but chose to return and then had his best season last year with 91/2 sacks.

Clayborn flew into town Friday and spent the day at Gillette Stadium. He watched film and talked with the Patriots’ coaching staff, heard what they had in mind for him, and having seen how things were run, decided it was a good fit.


“It brings me back to my Iowa days where you’ve got to work for what you get,” he said. “I’m all for that. I’m just looking to help the team out any way I can.”

LIONS: Detroit signed tight end Luke Willson, adding a potential starter to replace of Eric Ebron.

Willson has 89 career catches for 1,129 yards with 11 touchdowns in 72 games, all with the Seahawks.

The Lions also signed defensive lineman Sylvester Williams, who started 11 games last season for the Titans.

CHIEFS: Kansas City signed defensive tackle Xavier Williams, a restricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals, who declined to match the offer the Chiefs made to the run-stopper.

VIKINGS: Minnesota re-signed kicker Kai Forbath to a one-year contract.

FALCONS: Atlanta added depth at tight end by agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with seven-year veteran Logan Paulsen.

Paulsen, 31, did not have a reception in 14 games with San Francisco in 2017. He has also played for Washington and Chicago.

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