IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys will be taking another high-profile linebacker to camp in place of the injured Sean Lee. He could also be in the mix as a strong-side linebacker.
Dallas got the rights from Baltimore for Rolando McClain, while placing Lee on injured reserve.
The terms of the deal for McClain essentially turn a low-risk deal into a no-risk deal for the Dallas Cowboys. If McClain plays 50 percent of the defensive snaps this year, the Cowboys will trade a 2015 sixth-round pick to Baltimore for a 2015 seventh-round pick.
If that doesn’t end up happening but McClain is on the 53-man roster for five games or the 46-man roster for three games, Dallas will swap 2016 seventh-round selections with Baltimore if the Cowboys have a better pick. If McClain fails to make the team, the Cowboys lose nothing. McClain did not receive any guaranteed money in the one-year deal.
McClain was the eighth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders out of Alabama in 2010, but off-field issues, suspensions and multiple arrests led to his release.
He made 85 tackles with .5 sacks and an interception in 2010. He followed that up with 99 tackles and five sacks in 2011 and 62 tackles with one sack in 11 games in 2012.
McClain then signed with the Ravens in 2013 but retired shortly after. He expressed his desire to return in March 2014 and was reinstated, but he retired once again.
The Cowboys evidently believe he wants to return to football and will come out of retirement in Dallas, and they could use the depth at linebacker.
Dallas may know of McClain as well as any NFC East team, as it was McClain’s hit in the preseason in 2012 that left Jason Witten with a lacerated spleen. The linebacker hasn’t played in the NFL since that 2012 season.
Sean Lee wasn’t expected to play this season after tearing his ACL during the offseason, and the competition at middle linebacker is still ongoing entering training camp.
Justin Durant was the leading candidate to take the middle linebacker spot after taking most of the middle linebacker reps at the end of minicamp. DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens are also candidates for that position.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys take low-risk chance on Rolando McClain
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys’ search for a possible replacement for Sean Lee has led them to Rolando McClain.
In 2010, the Oakland Raiders made McClain the eighth pick of the NFL draft. It never worked out for him with the Raiders for a variety of reasons, including some of his misdeeds. It never worked out for him in two short stints with the Baltimore Ravens that led to him retiring twice.
But he doesn’t turn 25 until July 14.
The Cowboys are looking at a low-risk chance for a high-ceiling talent.
“He sounds as excited about football as I’ve ever heard him,” said McClain’s agent, Pat Dye.
If that holds up, then the Cowboys might have found the guy to man the middle linebacker spot. The Cowboys mostly worked veteran Justin Durant at Lee’s spot in the organized team activities and minicamp, but dabbled with rookie Anthony Hitchens and second-year linebacker DeVonte Holloman at the spot.
Durant is an outside linebacker masking as a middle linebacker even if the coaches believe he can play all three linebacker positions. Holloman started two games at middle linebacker last year as a rookie out of desperation. Hitchens, a fourth-round pick, has a lot to learn.
McClain comes with a better resume than any of them, but his off-field issues — a number of arrests since being drafted — are a concern. The fact that he retired twice is a concern, but Dye’s words offer encouragement that McClain, who ended Jason Witten’s preseason in 2012 with a hit in a exhibition game that led to a lacerated spleen, knows this might be his last chance.
“I see, and Rolando sees, the Dallas situation as a great opportunity given Sean’s injury, and you’re talking about a great franchise and a great organization,” Dye said. “I’ve described to any of the clients we’ve had through the years there — Emmitt Smith, Dexter Coakley, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Keith Brooking, DeMarco Murray — that playing for the Cowboys in football is kind of like playing for the Yankees in baseball. Just an iconic franchise. With kind of what he’s done going back to his time with the Raiders, I think that all of this has led him to a point where he feels like the game is too important to him to give up. He’s just 24 years old. He’s very talented. He’s very bright. Tough. Competitive. There’s a reason he was a top-10 pick at a position that is almost impossible to be a top-10 pick. Hopefully this situation will go smoothly.”
Patience will be required. McClain has not played in a game since November 2012, after he was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. He has not taken part in a full offseason program. He will have to learn a new defense and a new team.
The Cowboys have taken these sorts of chances on former high draft picks before. In 2005, they signed Marc Colombo, who was the Chicago Bears’ first-round pick in 2002, after he suffered a serious knee injury. In 2006, Colombo became the Cowboys’ starting right tackle and held the spot through 2010.
Asking that of McClain is too much. He’s on just a one-year deal and the Cowboys believe Lee will be 100 percent in 2015, but this is a chance worth taking.
And it falls in line with how the Cowboys have conducted their offseason business, spending wisely if not exorbitantly on guys such as Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey, Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye.
PRO SCOUTING REPORT: New LB McClain plays with power
Rolando McClain | Linebacker | 6-3, 250 | 4.68 | Alabama
Drafted by: Oakland Raiders No. 8 overall in 2010 NFL Draft
Games Studied: Oakland vs. Pittsburgh 2012, @Denver, vs. New Orleans
- When they draw up how a linebacker is to look, Rolando McClain would be the model. Physically imposing with long arms and a thick upper and lower body. On tape, he plays with a ton of power and force. When he hits the ball carrier, they stop. Is a high tackler. Never observed him going low on an attempt to bring the ball carrier down. Wrap up and drive to ground. Can make the tackle in space, had several opportunities to do this and was successful all but once where he overran a play in the Saints game. Is a square-moving player along the line of scrimmage.
- When he can extend his hands, he has the pop to shed the block and get to the ball. When he didn’t extend those hands and didn’t play his technique, then he was not going to be a factor in the play. His play improved in this area more as the season wore on. In the Steelers game, he tended to play lazy, then in the Saints game, he really turned it on. He played as if he was in better physical condition and his movement really improved.
- For a player his size, he does not look quick, but there were some snaps in that Saints contest where he flowed to the ball nicely and with some quickness. I questioned his effort when he became tired. Were some drives in the Steelers and Broncos games where the Raiders were having a hard time getting off the field and he was no help. Can be very physical at the point of attack when the ball comes right at him whether it was the running back or the lead back. Is not afraid of that contact.
- Surprising how we he covers for a player of his size. Would have to say that one of his better traits is his ability to understand where he needs to fit in his zone drops and get in position to handle those assignments. There were several snaps in the Steelers game where he had to carry the running back wide in the flat out of man coverage and he was able to put himself in good position to not allow the ball to be thrown in his direction. Was even asked to carry the tight end up the field and was not an issue. Did not look out of place at all in this regard.
- Has no pass rush moves as a blitzer. It’s all about power and trying to run over the blocker. There were a couple of snaps where they tried to put him on the outside and rush but was nowhere near the quarterback or the ball. Would not call this one of his strong suits and if used in this role for the Cowboys, he is going to have to develop better technique to get those results.
- Having an understanding of how these guys think in the front office, I promise they are looking at this deal with Rolando McClain as a low-risk, high-reward potential, which is far better than high risk and low reward. The big question will be if McClain is mentally right, because his tape shows that he has the physical tools with the low age to be a very big help. On a one year deal, it’s up to McClain to prove that he wants to play and get his career back on track. From my experiences in this league, these are the best case situations because if it doesn’t work out, you just move on. But if it does, you really have a chance to help your club.
Rolando McClain helped Alabama win the 2009 BCS national title, won the 2009 (Jack) Lambert Award as the nation’s best collegiate linebacker and also the Dick Butkus Award. He was presented the Butkus award in a surprise visit by the Hall of Fame linebacker himself, after having been called to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban’s office for media interviews.
At one time, McClain believed he had Crohn’s disease. He took medication for seven years to deal with the gastro-intestinal disorder, but after a series of tests, doctors told him the diagnosis of Crohn’s was incorrect.
McClain, drafted No. 8 overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2010, had a falling out with the Raiders and head coach Dennis Allen in 2012. During a November practice, McClain (here putting a hit on receiver Danny Amendola that resulted in a fine) loafed during a drill. Allen told him to get out if he didn’t want to run at full speed. McClain and Allen got into a shouting match. McClain was benched, then suspended for two games conduct detrimental to the team.
After signing with the Raiders for five years and $40 million, McClain began to get phone calls from his old crew from the Decatur streets. McClain said he spent $600,000 on friends and family in a sixth-month span. In December of 2011. McClain flew to Decatur for his grandfather’s funeral. He expected a simple service, but his family purchased a $20,000 funeral package that he paid for.
McClain has been arrested three times: Dec. 1, 2011 by Decatur (Ala.) police for assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm inside the city limits; Jan. 8, 2013 he was pulled over by Decatur police for a window tint violation and gave a false name; April 21, 2013 for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
McClain grew up in the projects of Decatur, Ala. At 15, he received a restraining order against his mother, Tonya Malone, after she beat him and threatened him with a knife. At 16, she was arrested after threatening his entire high school. She was later diagnosed as bi-polar.
Following the incident, McClain’s estranged father was granted custody. But McClain returned to Decatur to remain eligible for football. For a while, he stayed with the Thomas family, whose son Tim played on the same Ole Miss basketball team as Sean Tuohy. Tuohy’s Memphis family took in Michael Oher, subject of the movie “The Blind Side.”
When the Thomas family took McClain in, Canitha Thomas recalled him calling during dinner from a street corner one day and asking if he could stay with them. “All he had with him,” she said, “was his scholarship offer from Alabama and the clothes he was wearing.”
Talking about the NFL life he temporarily left behind, McClain recalls living large. “Man,” he says, “I once bought a $150,000 car just because my friends told me to. Not because I wanted it. Because they told me to.”
After being released by the Raiders, McClain signed with the Baltimore Ravens on April 10, 2013. A little more than a month later, he announced his retirement. Then on March 10, 2014, he announced that he would return to the NFL. On April 18, 2014, the Ravens reinstated McClain from the retired/reserve list. On April 21, 2014, he retired again.