(Editor's Note: With free agency beginning March 9, the DallasCowboys.com staff is forecasting the future for five Cowboys currently set to hit the open market. Part 3 spotlights linebacker Rolando McClain, who will be an unrestricted free agent. For the full list of Cowboys free agents, visit our free agency tracker.)
LB Rolando McClain
6-4 / 255
5 NFL Seasons
2015 Impact: 11 games (11 starts): 97 tackles (9 for loss), 10 quarterback pressures, 2 sacks, 1 interception
Bryan: In listening to Jerry and Stephen Jones speak last week while in Indianapolis, it appeared that they were interested in bringing him back. I later found out that over the weekend that the front office did in fact meet with his agents. The school of thought among the front office and coaching staff was that McClain had his best season in 2015 which is why they are interested in bringing him back. In 2014, he started the season well then faded down the stretch - that wasn't the case in this season. His play was consistent from game to game and thrived playing next to Sean Lee. His reliability and stability improved. There is a clear difference with the defense when he was in the lineup. Outstanding football intelligence and toughness. See this deal getting done and him being the starting "MIKE" linebacker in 2016.
Nick:Understanding the Cowboys have already announced their intentions to try and re-sign McClain, I think I still would be rather cautious in what contract he received. The one-year deal he got last year was laced with playing incentives and I wouldn't give him anything other than that. Personally, I wouldn't be in a hurry to sign McClain. If the opportunity to draft a dynamic linebacker such as Myles Jack came along, I would do that. So, locking up McClain isn't a huge priority for me. Trusting him and his availability isn't easy considering he was injured in the playoffs two years ago and then missed four games due to suspension. That also means he's another strike away from a 10-game suspension. So he's a great player when he wants to be great but I would be very hesitant on re-signing him.
Rob: It took McClain a little while to get rolling last season. He had knee surgery and missed nearly the entire offseason program and training camp, then sat the first four regular-season games due to NFL suspension. When he's healthy and rust-free, he can be dominant from the MIKE spot because he's instinctive as well as a physical force behind the line. Last week Stephen Jones expressed interest in bringing him back, and for what he means to the defense when he's on his game, it makes sense. He has played on one-year deals the last two years, and he did test the market last year before returning to Dallas. Re-signing him wouldn't keep me from drafting a player who can provide depth at middle linebacker, though.[embeddedad0]
David: There's a good chance I'm alone in this thought, but I think Rolando McClain is the most important free agent the Cowboys have this year. The reason is fairly obvious: of all the pieces the Cowboys have hitting free agency, McClain is one the few incumbent starters. As the starting middle linebacker, he offers the Cowboys a playmaker who's capable of racking up 100 tackles and several game-changing plays – think back to the pick-six in Miami last year, or the game-ending interception in Seattle in 2014. Yes, his off-field baggage – highlighted by his four-game suspension last year – is not ideal. He also has issues with consistency, as you can never quite count on his availability or his health. But he improved on that from 2014 to 2015, and he appears to like it in Dallas. With the structure in place in this locker room, I don't think it's a stretch to think he can further improve as a more reliable member of the team. I wouldn't break the bank for him, but I think he should be a priority. Hopefully a decent one or two-year deal would be enough to secure his spot in this lineup. Based on their comments at the Combine last week, it certainly sounds like the Cowboys' front office agrees with me.