The Vikings are not behaving like a team that expects to aggressively sign big name free agents once the new league year starts on Tuesday, but the team has been mentioned in connection with a few lesser names who might be interesting additions.
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Probably the most interesting name being bandied about right now is Adrian Clayborn, DE for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jeremy Fowler reports that several teams including the Vikings have made inquiries about the 26-year-old former first round pick out of Iowa.
Why would Clayborn be a potentially interesting signing? Precisely because he’s a 26-year-old former first round pick.
We’re not talking about a garden-variety mid-range free agent here, we’re talking about a player who at one time was looked at as a future Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
Clayborn came into the league with loads of talent and seemed like he was on his way to a strong career when he tallied 7.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in his rookie season with the Bucs. Then the injuries started happening.
His 2012 season was cut down to three games thanks to a knee injury. He rebounded in 2013 to play all 16 but tallied only 5.5 sacks. His 2014 season ended after just one game when he was placed on IR. And that was that for him in Tampa Bay.
Had it not been for the injuries, there’s a chance Clayborn might have developed into the outstanding all-around defensive end some envisioned him becoming. It bears noting that coming out of college there were those who had their doubts about Clayborn becoming a truly great pass rusher but most agreed he was at least a solid run defender with the ability to penetrate.
Clayborn is an intriguing option for the Vikings given his skill as a run defender more so than his potential as a pass rusher. Last year Minnesota was very vulnerable against the run, especially on the left side of their defense where veteran Brian Robison was totally overmatched.
Clayborn might not be as good a pass rusher as Robison at this point but he’s arguably a better early down defensive end, a player who could help shore up the run D and still provide some value as a pass rusher.
Obviously the injury situation is a concern with Clayborn after two IR trips in four years. But the talent has always been there and you have to believe Mike Zimmer would be eager to get his hands on Clayborn and try to mold him.
At 26, Clayborn still has the chance to realize some of the potential that has thus far not been fulfilled. Obviously the Vikings are not the only team that’s intrigued by Clayborn, as Fowler noted in his report.
With the Vikings looking at players like Clayborn and Dallas DE George Selvie, you have to wonder about Brian Robison’s future with the team. Robison was not a great scheme fit last year and at the very least we could see him shifted into a situational pass rush role in 2015. It’s even possible the Vikings could cut Robison outright.
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