All seemed to be running fairly smooth for the Falcons in free agency. Regardless of the loss of Austin Hooper and De’Vondre Campbell, Atlanta gained some quality talent. But then they lost some critical depth to their defensive line.
On Tuesday, both Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford found other homes. Clayborn and Crawford were both pending free agents that the Falcons weren’t concerned with losing considering they’d be at a low cost, and the Falcons had enough spending room.
Clayborn will be joining Hooper with the Browns and Crawford is taking his talents to Tennessee to play for the Titans.
A Slim Defense
Losing Clayborn and Crawford sucks, especially since Atlanta already has a thin defensive unit.
Clayborn played four seasons in Atlanta and was reliable off the edges, consistent too. He was an excellent pass rusher that also knew how to do his duties against the run game. Last season, Clayborn played in 15 games with one start. He had four sacks and played a key role to the Falcons defensive turnaround towards the end. Keeping him Atlanta would have been a significant weight off of Atlanta, but now they will need to address defensive line depth in the draft or free agency. Cleveland signed Clayborn to a two-year deal.
We saw some negative regression with Crawford’s stats from 2018 but prior to that, he was another reliable guy on the defensive line. In 2017, he suffered a season-ending injury that limited him to only four games. Once he was healthy and could return he played in all 16 games with 11 starts. He was hungry on the interior, racking up six sacks, seven tackles for loss and a total of 35 tackles. Last season was a major decline for Crawford. He recorded 24 tackles, one went for a loss and a half-sack. Regardless of his downfall, Crawford still would have added the depth the Falcons need on the defensive line. But hopefully, they can find an affordable replacement. Crawford will be joining another Falcons’ loss, Vic Beasley in Tennessee.
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The Falcons have made it clear that their main priority for the 2020 NFL draft will be defense since they already took care of their offensive needs in free agency and trade.
With the loss of Clayborn, Crawford, and Beasley, the Falcons will need to replace over 1,600 snaps on defensive.
On the line right now, the Falcons have Grady Jarrett, Takk McKinley, Allen Bailey, Dante Fowler, and Tyeler Davison. The depth chart behind them looks like Dearin Senat, Austin Larkin, Steven Means, and John Cominsky.
It’s not as pretty as it could be. In 2019 combined, Senat, Means, Cominsky, and Larkin took 132 snaps total. Taking into account that Means had spent all last season on injured reserve and Senat was only promoted to the active roster a few times.
Atlanta’s general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn seemed to be men of their word this year as far as getting out of ‘cap hell’. So let’s hope they continue to make the aggressive moves they need heading into the NFL draft later this month.