With Jerod Mayo working back from injured reserve and Dont’a Hightower expected to be out six to seven months, the New England Patriots could be in the market to add a free-agent linebacker.
The 25-year-old McClain ultimately left his meeting with the Patriots without a contract signed, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. But the team’s interest in veteran linebacker help is notable at this stage in free agency.
McClain started 12 of his 13 games with the Dallas Cowboys this past season. The middle linebacker finished second on the defense in tackles, posting 81 to go with one sack, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
McClain was sidelined for three regular-season games due to knee and groin injuries, as well as an illness, and he later suffered a concussion during Dallas’ playoff run. Yet after a strong overall season in the absence of injured starter Sean Lee, it appears the Cowboys are still in the fold as the free agent and his agent, Pat Dye, test the waters.
The Alabama product, who played alongside Hightower and under head coach Nick Saban for the Crimson Tide, was once the eighth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2010 NFL draft. Though since then, the former SEC Player of the Year’s road through the league has been an arduous one.
McClain was released by Oakland in April of 2013 after two arrests, 41 games, 246 tackles, 6.5 sacks and an interception. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens five days later before being placed under arrest for a third time.
The 6-foot-4, 259-pound linebacker subsequently announced his retirement a month into his tenure with the Ravens, and spent the following season out of football before being traded to the Cowboys with a seventh-round pick in exchange sixth.
That move led to McClain’s resurgence. And his play warranted him a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2014.
As the 2015 campaign approaches, however, McClain faces a four-game fine for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Another failed test would result in a four-game suspension.