Community Tailgate: Will McClain Rebound?

We’re still more than two months away from the start of battles on the NFL gridiron, but there’s no offseason when it comes to debate amongst fans. Earlier this summer, we launched a new series here at PFR that will be known as the Community Tailgate. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. Every weekday, we’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

Of course, while the debate may get spirited, we ask that it all stays respectful. If you need a reminder of our rules, please check out our commenting policy. Basically, we ask that you refrain from inappropriate language, personal insults, and attacks. Speaking of commenting: we’ve made it much easier to leave a comment here at Pro Football Rumors. You are no longer required to be a registered user – simply put in your name, email address, and comment and submit.

Today, we’ll be discussing Rolando McClain and his most recent unfortunate development. On Thursday, the NFL decided to conduct a pre-holiday bad news dump when they announced the suspensions of four players, including McClain and Chargers star tight end Antonio Gates.

McClain, who turns 26 later this month, registered 87 tackles and a sack to go along with two interceptions in 13 games for the Cowboys in 2014. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked the former first-round pick eighth out of 60 qualified inside linebackers, and he excelled in every aspect of the game — PFF’s grades placed him eighth as a pass rusher, seventh as a cover man, and 11th as a run defender, among inside linebackers.

Needless to say, that performance had Jerry Jones doing cartwheels in Texas. The Cowboys more or less took a flier on McClain as he was viewed as damaged goods by many NFL clubs. What follows is a quick recap of McClain’s career for the uninitiated.

McClain, a standout at Alabama, was selected No. 8 overall by the Raiders in 2010. From there, McClain had flashes of brilliance mixed with aloofness and fluctuating effort. In December of 2011, he was arrested for an incident in which he discharged a firearm. In the spring of 2013, his tenure in black and silver came to an end when even the Raiders felt they had enough of his off-the-field shenanigans. He hooked on with the Ravens but shortly thereafter announced his retirement from football. The following year, the Cowboys acquired McClain’s rights on the cheap from Baltimore and no one knew exactly what he was capable of with so much rust on him.

Of course, McClain went on to help stabilize the Cowboys’ defense and linebacking corps, no small feat considering the absence of Sean Lee. Despite his solid play and flirtations with other teams in free agency, McClain circled back to Dallas on a modest one-year deal with a base value of $3MM, including $1.5MM via gameday active roster bonuses. Of course, it was McClain’s off-the-field history that kept him from cashing in big after his big comeback campaign.

Now, McClain will be absent for the first month of the season thanks to his violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. From here, McClain appears to be at a fork in the road where he can regroup and get back to his 2014 form or drift back towards where he was prior to last season. All in all, do you expect McClain to continue as a productive linebacker in 2015, or will this latest setback cause a harmful regression? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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