Rolando McClain finally has a chance to start fresh and try and revive his career. Two weeks ago, the Oakland Raiders waived McClain to create cap and roster space and to rid themselves of the headaches caused by the troubled middle linebacker. No teams made a waiver claim on McClain, but the moment he cleared waivers, he had at least four teams interested in signing the young linebacker.
Ultimately, McClain decided to accept an offer submitted by the Baltimore Ravens. The terms of the contract are believe to be a one year deal worth $700,000 with $400,000 for a potential total $1.1 million, but none of it is guaranteed money. Seeing that McClain spent his first three seasons of his career in Oakland, Raiders’ fans have a unique perspective on what the Baltimore Ravens can expect to get out the former first rounder.
The first thing to look into is McClain’s impact on the football field. McClain never managed to live up to the lofty expectations that he set coming out of college, and he wasn’t able to come and shore up the Raiders’ run defense. In his three seasons in Oakland, McClain managed a combined 244 total tackles for an average of roughly 81 tackles per season. Those numbers do not look that bad for a young linebacker, but looking his lack of ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage is pretty telling.
In his career, McClain has only compiled 17 total tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks. McClain has not shown the ability to make explosive plays behind the line of scrimmage, as he often lets the plays come to him. A lot of this is his inability to disengage from blockers on a consistent basis to make plays. He also struggles when he is forced to read and react to what the offense is doing. This often leads to McClain being out of position and leads to a lot of missed tackles, as he was ranked near the bottom of Football Outsider’s linebacker run stop rates.
McClain also struggles with his ability drop into pass coverage. He has slow feet, stiff hips and poor lateral agility, and these things add up to why he struggles in pass coverage. His inability to read the plays does not allow him to anticipate where the play is going and make up for his lack athletic ability in space. McClain has 18 pass deflections in his three seasons, but all 18 came in his first two seasons. His pass coverage ability regressed so much during last season that the Raiders made him and two down linebacker during the second half of his season.
McClain has had his fair share of struggles off the field during his short tenure in Oakland. McClain has had multiple run-ins with the law during his short career. He was arrested last year and charged with multiple misdemeanors, of which he was convicted before he appealed and then settled with the accuser out of court to drop the charges. Then at the beginning of this year he was again arrested for giving a false name to a law enforcement official following a traffic stop over dark window tint. Two major run ins in just three years does not bode well for the rest of his career.
McClain’s character took another hit towards the later part of last season due to an incident with head coach Dennis Allen. McClain was kicked out of practice following an argument with Allen and then took to social media to say that he was “officially no longer an Oakland Raider,” which was later removed. His actions led to two game suspension from the team. He was never active following his reinstatement from the suspension. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer had a report shortly after that compounded on the character concerns. Glazer reported:
“Players there, they’re telling me this has been an ongoing problem with Rolando McClain, the tipping point was last week. Somebody asked him, ‘Do you even care?’ He said, ‘I’ve got four million reasons not to care.'”
The lack of effort and then the apathy shown towards their concerns over his effort raises a lot of red flags. It could force a future locker room to question whether, or not they will be able to trust this player week in and week out.
This move is a relatively smart move for the Ravens in that they have a massive hole to fill in the middle of their defense following the departure of Ray Lewis and Darnell Ellerbee. They are also attempting to fill this hole with almost no risk at all (because the cost is low), while getting a potentially high reward. Despite his short comings, McClain is still a young player and has room to grow as a player. The main question is the impact in the Ravens’ locker room. McClain does have some serious character red flags, and the strength of the Ravens’ locker room is not known following the departure of the three strongest leaders in Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin.
However, McClain can definitely succeed.
If they can keep McClain in line off the field and help him develop on the field then they get a potential steal at a low cost. Most likely, they will get a player that is not completely unproductive like last season, but will probably have less impact than his “breakout” season in his second year.