Defensive end Adrian Clayborn released
Up against the salary cap, the Patriots cleared some room by releasing defensive end Adrian Clayborn on Friday.
“Thank you [to the Patriots] for my time with the organization. I gained so much respect for how you do things and win championships,” Clayborn posted Friday on Twitter. “It’s done the right way through hard work. Thank you for granting my release. I’m ready for this next chapter.”
By releasing Clayborn, the Patriots clear $3.9 million from their 2019 salary cap. Clayborn, 30, was one of the better-known free agent signings the Patriots made this time last year, giving him a two-year, $10 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed. The Patriots will carry a $2 million dead cap charge for Clayborn’s contract in 2019 with him off the roster.
Clayborn made solid contributions — his best game was against Green Bay — but didn’t make a major impact and was a healthy scratch in the team’s last two regular-season games. He played 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and finished the regular season with 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble, mostly working as a rush end on obvious passing downs.
Given the Patriots’ salary cap situation, Clayborn falls into the same category as tight end Dwayne Allen as a veteran whose contributions in New England were appreciated, but were no longer coming at the right price. The team entered free agency with around $12 million in salary cap space and has since signed several players. The Patriots can clear additional room with more cuts or by restructuring or extending existing contracts.
Without Clayborn, Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis (among others) may get more opportunity for playing time. The Patriots have Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, Rivers, Davis, Ufomba Kamalu, and Trent Harris at defensive end along with Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Mike Pennel at defensive tackle.
Last year, when the Patriots released running back Brandon Bolden on cut-down day, they did so with hopes they could bring him back on the practice squad.
It appears they learned their lesson. The Patriots had to wait a year to get Bolden back given that he quickly signed with the Dolphins after his release last September. This time, they gave him a strong deal with $2 million guaranteed — a $1 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary.
Bolden will still have to earn his keep, like everyone else to a degree, but that amount of guaraneed money would be a risk if the team didn’t see him as part of their plans.
Tight end Matt LaCosse got $500,000 in guaranteed money. He’ll have to fight for a roster spot but is in a similar position to Jacob Hollister in terms of financial commitment. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington’s deal, with $25,000 in guaranteed money, is basically a flier.
Several Patriots got nice chunks of change this week when the NFL distributed payouts from its Performance-Based Pay program. The program awards money from two pools: One for all players, and one for veterans with one or more accrued seasons, to players who outperform their contracts based on a comparison of playing time to salary. As he was in 2017, left guard Joe Thuney was the Patriots top beneficiary. Thuney earned an extra $473,275, with a $352,578 payout from the regular pool and a $120,697 payout from the veteran pool. Thuney, who played every snap and is still on his rookie deal, earned more from the two pools combined than all but six other players. Cornerback Jonathan Jones was the other Patriot to earn one of the top 25 highest payouts leaguewide, with an extra $423,429. In total, $188.88 million was disbursed . . . Free agent defensive tackle Danny Shelton visited the Bengals on Friday, according to ESPN.