Yesterday, the Falcons lost two critical members of their defensive line, which was an already thin unit. Both Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford were pending free agents, but they were thought to be low-cost options that could still return to the team, even with the Falcons low on funds to spend.
Clayborn was an excellent rotational pass rusher that also did his job against the run. He played four of the last five seasons in Atlanta and was consistently reliable off the edge, even as he aged. Keeping him in the fold would have significantly eased the Falcons need to address the defensive end spot heading into the draft. But without Clayborn, more additions to the group must be made — whether that be through free agency or the draft. He had four sacks last season in 15 games (1 start) and was key in the Falcons second-half defensive turnaround. Clayborn will be taking his talents to Cleveland, teaming up with Austin Hooper again, on a two-year deal.
Crawford was another rotational piece on the defensive line, but he saw some negative regression in every statistical category from 2018. After suffering a season-ending injury in 2017, limiting him to just four games, Crawford came back healthy and was a force on the interior for Atlanta, racking up six sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 35 total tackles. He played in all 16 games and started 11 of them. This past year, however, he only recorded 24 tackles, one of which went for a loss and a half-sack. Crawford still would have served as quality defensive line help that the Falcons need, but it’s a little less surprising that Atlanta decided to move on given their cap situation. He will be joining Vic Beasley in Tennessee.