The Dallas Cowboys need for linebacker depth goes without saying, but Damone Clark and Markquese Bell have both risen to the occasion following Leighton Vander Esch's season-ending neck injury.
Like most teams, the Cowboys are one more injury away from being in dire straits at the position. For the time being, though, Clark and Bell's presence was enough to dissuade Shaquille Leonard from signing with Dallas and push him to the Eagles.
The Cowboys have veteran Rashaan Evans (who's played decent) behind Clark and Bell, but it's slim pickings otherwise. Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson both play a lot in the box, but they're not natural off-ball linebackers.
With all of this in mind, could Dallas look externally to add insurance? The free agent market leaves something (a lot) to be desired, but an old friend -- and fan favorite -- is now available after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shockingly uplifted his indentifite suspension.
The player in question? One Rolando McClain.
Cowboys fans want a reunion with former LB Rolando McClain
A fitting throwback Thursday story, right?
McClain was a cult hero during his two seasons with the Cowboys in 2014 and 2015. The 2014 defense was a middle-of-the-road unit, and McClain made them respectable. He finished the season with 81 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two interceptions. He was PFF's ninth-highest graded linebacker with a 80.3 grade and eighth-highest graded LB in coverage with an 84.7 mark.
McClain had a similar impact in 2015, but was suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. From there, suspensions snowballed. In 2016, he was handed a series of suspensions, culminating in a 10-game ban that preluded an indefinite suspension.
The former Alabama star was reinstated three years later in 2019 and subsequently released by Dallas before he was suspended again in December of 2019. That latest suspension is the one that's been lifted and Cowboys fans can't help but envision McClain, now 34 years old, wearing a star on his helmet again.
You simply had to be there to understand these tweets. One could argue McClain was the best linebacker in the NFL in 2014. He didn't grade as highly from PFF in 2015, but his 75.0 player grade is nothing to sneeze at and he was stout in coverage.
Of course, that was a whopping eight years ago. McClain is 34 years old now. He's probably fresher than most defenders in their mid-30s, but you have to wonder what kind of shape he's in and question his desire to return to football.
We like to think Cowboys fans understand the sheer unlikelihood of a McClain reunion, but the collective reaction to the news just hammers home how dynamic and beloved McClain was for those two seasons.
Let us dream.