Cowboys Retain Rolando McClain

IRVING - The Cowboys have taken the step some on the staff thought unwise, with an agreement to retain the gifted Rolando McClain, meaning his strange-but-largely-successful odyssey in Dallas will continue.

Once the coaching staff and scouting staff made their updated reports to the Joneses in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Dallas Cowboys set in motion a plan: They never intended to show Rolando McClain the love -- in the form of money -- he believed he'd earned.

But somewhere over the course of talks, Dallas took a long stride toward doing that, with what ESPN says is a deal featuring $3 million in base and another $1 million in incentives ... meaning McClain's strange-but-largely-successful odyssey in Dallas will go on.

Plans are changed by circumstance and by investigation. Dallas never planned on losing Sean Lee to an ACL tear on the opening day of OTAs, and along came a phone call from a vacationing Jerry Jones promising McClain would get a chance to rejuvenate his career in Dallas ... but under the terms of a one-year, $700,000 deal.

“I was on a bad path,” McClain said during the season. “I didn’t deserve to play football, so to (speak). I wasn’t all the way there in the game. So you ain’t going to be the best if you ain’t focused on the job, so I needed to take time to do what was important, get myself right, and I got that right.''

“Now I’m in a great organization, got some great teammates and just happy to play football again.”

The Joneses came away from 2014 believing that McClain was indeed "happy'' and should be retained. But that was before some on the staff put in their vote. And so while the team exchanged contractual concepts with the middle linebacker this spring, the two sides seemed always very much on different pages. McClain has watched as Bruce Carter and Justin Durant have left Dallas for rich deals, and sees himself as superior to them. But his erratic nature and his level of unreliability -- even while playing at a Pro Bowl level -- steered some on the staff away from committing anything more than another short-term deal, likely a one-year offer near the vet's minimum of $745,000.

The 2014 Cowboys became reliant on a gifted player who wasn't always reliable. Wisdom inside Valley Ranch has it that a 2015 McClain playing under a contract he was unhappy with would not be a positive experience. ... and yes, that's even so despite the inspirational work of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

What changed? We'll investigate that in the coming hours. Fish reports on 105.3 The Fan that his visit to New England motivated the Cowboys to move. It's also likely that Jerry Jones vetoed the thoughts of some of his lieutenants. In any event, what Dallas keeps here is a wildly gifted player who came cheap. ... and now stays a only little more expensively on this short-term deal.

The Cowboys, who traded their 2015 sixth-rounder in exchange for the former first-round draft pick (eighth overall in the 2010 draft), went into this process acknowledging his checkered history. The Cowboys of 2010 ranked him as their No. 7 prospect. ... and here he fell into their laps, Jerry Jones accurately predicting this would be a "steal ... if all the stars aligned.''

Not all the stars aligned. A review of his "enigmatic'' nature might help fans understand how difficult the decision might have been.

Remember the "(Expletive) the police!" yelling that got him booked for resisting arrest and for disorderly conduct? Remember that the incident was McClain's third arrest in 17 months in Decatur, Alabama? Remember the Blue-White Scrimmage in Oxnard, when CowboysHQ was there as two of McClain's teammates motioned for him to enter the game and he declined? Remember that later it was revealed that he had a mild hamstring problem. ... that was later modified to being an arm injury? And then on that Monday, Rolando left the practice field to report to the medical tent and was, according to our sources, given medical clearance to return to the field along with the option to skip the rest of the day out. ... and McClain chose the latter and retired to his dorm room?

That sort of erratic coming-and-going continued during the season. Sometimes it was personal business, sometimes it was injury, sometimes he just took time off from practice to take a lengthy bathroom break. But in the end -- even with a fine season under his belt marred only a bit by finishing the year unable to contribute due to injury -- did they bring into the locker room someone who wants to be there? And someone who they want to pay to continue being there?

The answer now is "yes.'' knows that those handful of "retirements'' were at least in part due to his desire to care for his two young children. But we also know that Ro gets himself tangled in oddities on a regular occasion. He was in a legal battle a while back where he was found guilty of third-degree assault, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm. (McClain pointed a gun at a man and fired it next to his head.) In January of 2013, McClain was arrested again, this time for providing a fake name when he was pulled over for a tint violation. Later that year he joined the Ravens and was arrested again two weeks later, this time for resisting arrest. He retired again shortly thereafter. And then there is the house fire, another oddity to be sure.

What we've said all along: This acquisition wasn't risk-free because what happens if McClain earns the starting position but then flames out or begs out? That is unchanged going forward. But McClain and Sean Lee playing behind Greg Hardy, Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence? On paper, that can be an impressive front seven.


McClain was the Cowboys' best defender for most of the season, finishing second on the team in tackles with 108, with a sack, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, two interceptions, five pass deflections and one forced fumble. And most of his defensive teammates felt inspired by his presence. He missed a quarter of the season due to injuries ... but was Pro Bowl-level when he played.

Onside Kicks

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