Bobby McCray entered the NFL as a seventh-round pick in 2004. Many scouts looked at him as a first-round talent, but the University of Florida product saw his stock plummet due to off-the-field troubles.
After three years of toiling in relative obscurity with the Jaguars, he had earned the respect of his teammates and coaches by making the team and increasing his production each year.
He went from 3 ½ sacks in 2004 to 5 ½ sacks in 2005 and a whopping 10 in 2006. That increased the expectations for McCray in 2007, said Jagnation.com's Charlie Bernstein.
"McCray has a quick first step and is a pure speed rusher, but he is too small to play the run effectively," Bernstein said. "McCray had a career year on paper in 2006, as he racked up 10 sacks, although many of them were of the coverage variety."
That season — plus Reggie Hayward's ruptured Achilles — opened the door for McCray to become, at the least, a part-time starter in 2007. The 6-foot-6, 266-pound end had a chance to prove that he was more than just a pass-rush specialist.
He failed in that endeavor. His sack total plummeted to three sacks last season. He was deactivated for two games to give an undrafted free agent, Jeremy Mincey, a chance to play. And even McCray's numbers in 2007, to Bernstein, seem inflated.
"McCray rebounded in the final three weeks of the season as he racked up all three of his sacks and five of his 18 tackles on the season," Bernstein said. "(But) he was a non-factor in most of the team's regular-season games."
So it's pretty easy to see why the Jaguars did not pursue a new contract with McCray, even though they had a serious need at the position. Instead, the Saints will take a chance on McCray this season.
For the Saints, it's a low cost investment that could pay off. The Saints return both of their starters, Will Smith and Charles Grant, from a year ago. They've also retained veteran end Renaldo Wynn, along with young ends Josh Cooper and Josh Savage.
McCray walks into a situation in which he could have an immediate impact — specifically on third downs — on a defense that only generated 32 sacks last year, good for only 19th in the NFL.
As the Saints have retained most of their offensive weapons in free agency, they've sought to improve their defense by seeking outside help. McCray gives the Saints a second pure speed rusher and one that has experience at being productive in the NFL, albeit for one season.
But Bernstein cautions to not expect more beyond that.
Matthew Postins is the editor of saintsinsider.com. He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.