After three seasons banned from the NFL, would the Dallas Cowboys welcome back Rolando McClain to their new and improved linebacker corps?
January 3, 2016. That’s the last time former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain played in a professional football game. Following that disappointing 4-12 season in Dallas, the NFL levied an indefinite ban against McClain after repeated violations of their substance abuse policy.
But according to a recent article by AL.com’s Matt Zenitz, McClain has been in contact with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and is attempting to get reinstated by the league. Turning 30-years old this weekend, and following more than three years of inactivity, it’s unclear if the Cowboys would even consider adding McClain to their roster if he’s reinstated.
The linebacker corps in Dallas is considered to be one of the best in the NFL right now, with fourth-year veteran Jaylon Smith and sophomore Pro Bowler Leighton Vander Esch leading the charge. Combined with defensive leader Sean Lee and a talented depth chart that includes veterans Joe Thomas and Justin March-Lillard, the roster is full.
And let’s not forget the group of unproven linebackers on the roster with second-year defenders in Chris Covington and Kyle Queiro plus undrafted rookies Andrew Dowell, Luke Gifford, and Nate Hall.
But McClain did possess an unusual skill set at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds. One that allowed him to record 80 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, three pass defends, an interception, and a defensive touchdown while starting in 11 games at middle linebacker for the Cowboys back in 2015. It’s his length and speed that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli called rare abilities.
McClain was the eighth overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Alabama. And after three seasons with the Oakland Raiders, off-the-field issues led him to be released and he eventually retired from the NFL at the age of 23.
After losing Sean Lee to a season-ending knee injury in OTAs, the Cowboys traded for McClain following a conversation with his former college coach, Nick Saban. The young linebacker surprised everyone by starting 12 games, posting an impressive 81 combined tackles, two interceptions, a sack, and a forced fumble after spending nearly two years away from the game.
The Cowboys actually retained McClain’s rights when they listed him on their reserve/suspended list back in 2016. But according to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk, Dallas would probably release Rolando before (or if) he’s granted reinstatement since they inked him to a one-year, $5 million contract prior to his ban. The Cowboys could still attempt to sign him afterward to a much more reasonable deal.
One of the Dallas Cowboys most complete positional units is believed to be at linebacker. So it’s unclear if the Cowboys would take a flier on Rolando McClain again. But he’s a rare talent who knows Rod Marinelli’s defense. And with the talented group ahead of him on the depth chart, McClain would have ample time to get back into game shape and play a role as a critical reserve. But this one might come down to trust.