The Dallas Cowboys have not made a decision on Rolando McClain’s future, according to sources. Many in the organization want the starting middle linebacker released, but financial implications prevent the Cowboys from moving on from McClain immediately.
The NFL suspended McClain for 10 games for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the team’s ultimate decision-maker, remains McClain’s biggest supporter within the organization. Jones talked McClain out of retirement in 2014, and McClain has started 23 games for the Cowboys the past two seasons.
“Disappointed is the word,” Jones told the Star-Telegram this week. “It is a recognition that these dependency issues are a difficult thing to address. We are proud of everything that we’ve gotten from Rolando. His aptitude as a football player is almost unsurpassed as one of the best that I’ve seen. We all say it’s such a waste, but with us, knowing him, we’ve got the best that he’s done in pro football.”
The main thing is strategically, [financially], it’s not good for us, and he doesn’t take up an active spot on the roster [during the season]. Jerry Jones on the potential of releasing linebacker Rolando McClain
The Cowboys re-signed McClain to a one-year, $4 million contract, including a $750,000 signing bonus, on March 9. The league suspended McClain on June 30.
McClain has forfeited his signing bonus, per the collective bargaining agreement, but his release would prevent the Cowboys from recouping the money.
“The main thing is strategically, [financially], it’s not good for us,” Jones said of the potential of releasing McClain, “and he doesn’t take up an active spot on the roster [during the season].”
Still, McClain isn’t guaranteed even to make it to the reserve/suspended list as the Cowboys continue to work through their financial options in deciding his future.
McClain served a four-game suspension last season, issuing a statement after the league announced the ban, promising never to test positive again.
“I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake,” McClain said a year ago. “I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error.”
The Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith in the second round as their future middle linebacker, but Smith will likely miss the entire 2016 season while recovering from knee surgery in January.
McClain, 27, didn’t endear himself to coaches or teammates this off-season either when he skipped the team’s voluntary workouts to remain in Alabama with his family. He did show up for the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp last month.
McClain, acquired in a 2014 trade with the Ravens, ranked third on the team in tackles with 97 despite playing only 11 games. He had 108 tackles in 13 games in 2014.
The Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith in the second round as their future middle linebacker, but Smith likely will miss the entire 2016 season while recovering from knee surgery in January. Anthony Hitchens and Andrew Gachkar are candidates for the position this season.
McClain became the Cowboys’ third defensive player suspended for substance abuse, joining defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory and Lawrence will serve four-game suspensions to start the season.