Adrian Clayborn knows he has something to prove.
The former first-round pick of Tampa Bay flashed his potential in the past, yet didn't reach his own standards in four seasons with the Buccaneers. The defensive end began his career with 7.5 sacks in 2011, when he started all 16 games. Then, Clayborn tore his ACL in his right knee during Week 3 of the 2012 season. And last season, Clayborn played in just one game after tearing his biceps.
Now, Clayborn is fresh off agreeing to a one-year, free-agent deal with Atlanta Falcons, a contract potentially worth $4.5 million. Still, one-year deals for players with injury histories indicate how a team wants a player to show his worth first.
"I've been injured quite a bit in my career and I know that I have to prove myself," Clayborn said. "So I'm fine with the one-year deal. That played a part in me coming to this system. I think it's going to give me the best chance to prove myself and prove the skills that I have. And I'm excited about it."
The Falcons need Clayborn to be a solid contributor to what is expected to be an improved pass rush. He'll join ex-Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, who also reached a contract with the team on Thursday. The Falcons offered a contract to Derrick Morgan, who opted to re-sign with the Tennessee Titans on a four-year, $30 million deal.
Regardless of not securing Morgan, new Falcons coach Dan Quinn obviously has a plan to stockpile pass-rushers and he got two bargain ones in Clayborn and Schofield. The Falcons also are expected to bring in one of the top pass rushers in this year's draft class with the eighth-overall pick.
Clayborn talked about what he brings as a pass-rusher.
"I think the word to describe my pass rush is just physicality," the 6-foot-3-inch, 280-pound Clayborn said. "I'm not going to be the fastest guy around the edge and I'm not going to bull rush you over, but I've got a good combination of all of that speed and power. I'm just going to try and get to the quarterback."
Clayborn should feel comfortable in his new surroundings. He will reunite with Falcons assistant head coach Raheem Morris, who drafted him while the head coach of the Buccaneers. Clayborn also played under Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox when Cox was an assistant in Tampa.
"His coaching style, he's real," Clayborn said of Morris. "He'll keep it 100 percent with you. He doesn't tell you anything that's flaky stuff. And he rolls with you. He believes in you and he's going to have your back. I learned a lot about Dan Quinn over the last day and I get the same vibe from him.
"Coach Cox, we had a good relationship when he was in Tampa. His coaching is very different than from anybody I've ever had. I'm just excited to be reunited with him and Raheem. Raheem believed in me from the start, so that just gives me a lot more confidence in my situation there."
Clayborn also has some familiarity with his new teammate, Schofield. They share the same agent, Blake Baratz, and have hung out together on occasion. They also squared off against each other in college when Clayborn was at Iowa and Schofield at Wisconsin.
"He's good, man," Clayborn said of Schofield. "He's blazing fast. He's definitely going to help out coming off the edge and really going to help this defense a lot."
As for Clayborn, he said he is fully cleared for offseason work coming off the biceps injury. He has no concern about the injury resurfacing. Plus he's overcome a lot worse in the past.
It's been well-documented how Clayborn has battled Erb's palsy, a condition that caused never damage to his right shoulder and arm when the doctors pulled him too hard through the birth canal.
"I've had it all my life, so it's not something new that I have to deal with," he said. "Overcoming stuff is nothing new. I just deal with it."