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When I was a still-young neophyte rumor-monger back in 1999, I first started to notice a recurring phenomenon. I call it the “rumorfication of speculation”.
This is where a Writer A takes a look at the list of available free agents, then looks at the lists of needs of an NFL team and cranks out an article saying that “Player B could fill Need C”.
Pretty soon, especially after fan blogs and radio talk shows are done with it, that becomes “Player B might soon fill Need C” or “Player B will soon fill Need C”.
Subtle difference, but important. One is speculation that a free agent signing could conceivably take place, the other is a rumor about genuine interest between a team and a player.
In this case, Writer A is “Jeremy Fowler of ESPN”. Player B is “Adrian Clayborn”. And Need C is “Cleveland Browns and Human beings who know how to play defensive end”.
Fowler takes pains to lay out exactly what he’s doing: “this space will try to update potential matches for the Cleveland Browns as they come through asking around the league. We’re not saying these are slam-dunk signings, but players the Browns will do their research on and contemplate a signing. ”
Alright, then. In other words, players the team may think about signing, per some measure of “thinking”. They may instantly dismiss the thought, I guess. Or be serious. Or watch some tape and then go to Denny’s. Or something in between.
So far, so good. We’ve got linkage between a player and a need. But now things get complicated.
In this case, Clayborn, Fowler says specifically, “his name was mentioned in Browns circles during last week’s combine talks”. The rest is left to the reader’s imagination: Mentioned in what context? Mentioned as a guy they’ll look at or a guy they’re genuinely interested in? How big is this circle, exactly? Is it like Google+, which is a circle conceivably as big as the entire world, but only has lonely people in it who don’t like Facebook? Or is it a tiny circle, drawn around Ray Farmer?
Regardless, however solid the line between the Browns and Clayborn, we figured we would actually talk to our Bucs publisher, Justin Pawlowski, about Clayborn to get his take. Here’s what he had to say:
“Clayborn’s four year career in Tampa has been mired with injuries. Clayborn played in just 36 of a possible 64 games during his four years with the Bucs. During his two healthy seasons, Clayborn totaled just 13 sacks. He is not a feared pass rusher and is probably better as a depth player who plays with tremendous effort, but lacks any elite characteristics. Clayborn is almost the exact same player he was when he was drafted in 2011.”
For the record, Clayborn is ranked eighth among defensive ends in Scout.com’s Free Agency Rankings, and given three stars. He’s right in there between George Johnson and Karl Klug, for those of you tracking such things.
At this point, if I was going to write that name in a circle, I think I’d make sure there were other names in there with it. Clayborn sounds like a depth signing, at best, on a team that could admittedly use some defensive line depth. We’ll keep an eye on it, but this one red-hot neither in signing immediacy or impact.
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