Dallas Cowboys Must Make Re-Signing Rolando McClain Top Priority
By Tyrone Starr
During the first wave of free agency, one can certainly say that the Dallas Cowboys have addressed some of their needs going into the shopping season.
You want a fullback to continue to set the tone for whoever the next starting running back will be? We got two for you to choose from in Jed Collins and Ray Agnew. You want a running back to attempt to fill at least some of the void left by last year’s Offensive Player of the Year in DeMarco Murray? Enter Darren McFadden.
How about a cornerback to replace the departed Sterling Moore? Welcome Corey White to the fray. Oh, and that beast on the edge to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Well, here he is, Mr. Greg Hardy.
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The Cowboys even found fill in replacements at linebacker, letting Justin Durant and Bruce Carter get paid $15M combined with $5.5M guaranteed by the Falcons and Buccaneers respectively while bringing in Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar for just over a $1M less in secured money.
Yes, the Cowboys have done an adequate job of filling in the holes, mostly at bargain rates, but there is important piece to the puzzle left to be filled.
The next free agent that the Dallas Cowboys sign must be linebacker Rolando McClain.
McClain is a vital part of what can elevate this defense even higher than the performance last year. Think back to last May, when the Cowboys lost their best defensive player, linebacker Sean Lee, for the season due to an injury. At that time, Dallas was coming off of their worst season in franchise history defensively and McClain was yet to even be a Cowboy.
Things looked pretty bleak, especially given that Dallas has also lost one of the pillars of their franchise in defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
In stepped McClain, off of an eighteen month-long hiatus from football. While it did take him a little bit of time to get acclimated back into playing professional football, there was no doubt the Cowboys had unearthed themselves a gem.
Apart from just looking exactly like the type of guy you want in the middle of your defense, McClain showed off his myriad of skills that once made him the eighth overall pick of 2010 NFL Draft. Sure there were other additions to the defense last season but none of them brought to the table what McClain did.
And with that, the Cowboys defense went from preseason punch line to the ones doing the punching. By the end of the season, the defense ended up surrendering almost 1,000 yards less than the previous season, went from 27th in rushing yards allowed to eighth and improved their opponent’s points per game by five.
All of this, thanks in large part to the addition of McClain. Even though he only played in 12 games due to a few different injuries, he finished second on the team in total tackles while adding two interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack.
More importantly, he allowed Cowboys fans to dream of Lee’s return alongside McClain as a weak side linebacker which would free him and his injury prone body from the toll of playing the middle linebacker spot. With McClain laying big hits and shutting down the run in the middle and Lee flying all over the field on the weak side, who knows how good this defense good be?
Sprinkle in the maturation of linebacker Anthony Hitchens and all of a sudden, you have a very formidable linebacker corps. Factor in that McClain is still just 26 years old by the time the season starts and it would be a huge mistake to let his talent leave the building.
Brinkley and Gachkar, as well as another addition to the unit in Keith Rivers are all decent players in backup roles but the prospects of any of them as full-time starters cannot possibly trump the trio listed above.
Unfortunately, the draft really is not an option either when it comes to bolstering the linebacker corps as A. the team has far more pressing needs to address in that medium and B. that position is one of the weakest in this year’s draft.
Lastly, the fact that he is still available means that Dallas can likely bring him back at a bargain rate which seems to be right up their alley.
All in all, the next signing the Cowboys need to make is Rolando McClain. With improved conditioning and a full training camp under coaches Rod Marinelli and Matt Eberflus, his return along with the additions of Hardy & Lee and possibly the drafting of a cornerback could make this defense extremely dangerous.