Oakland Raiders: Moving on Without Rolando McClain No Easy Task

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystMay 18, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Rolando McClain #55 of the Oakland Raiders hits Nate Burleson #13 of the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain has been found guilty on four charges stemming from an altercation in Decatur, Alabama last year, according to The Decatur Daily.

The paper notes that McClain was sentenced to "180 days in jail and fined $2,000 on charges of third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and wrongful discharge of a firearm."

McClain's lawyer will appeal the decision and the process will start all over again with the case being presented in front of a jury.

The NFL will review the matter under the league's personal conduct policy, and commissioner Roger Goodell could decide to suspend McClain now or withhold any potential suspension until McClain receives a jury trial, delaying resolution of the situation until October or longer.


Moving On

Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have to be asking themselves if McClain is the type of player and person they want running the defense in the new era. Keeping McClain around seems to go against the ideals of high character and personal accountability that the new regime will preach. 

The misdemeanor convictions are one thing, but his refusal to speak with the media until the Raiders sold out a home game in 2011 demonstrates a lack of respect for the fans that pay to watch him play.

It's not like McClain's play merits a wait-and-see approach from the new regime. The Alabama standout has racked up just 184 combined tackles during his two-year career, and has often had issues shedding blocks.

McClain is also guilty of a lack of hustle, giving up on plays he is more than capable of chasing down and taking poor angles to the ball.

Releasing him wouldn't save the Raiders much against the cap. According to CSNBayArea.com, such a move would save the Raiders $1.22 million against the 2012 cap, but at the cost of $7.26-million cap hit in 2013. It's not a lot of savings and the big cap hit in 2013 hurts, but the Raiders can use every bit of cap space they can get.

Reggie McKenzie may be waiting until McClain is suspended to make the move, as the player would forfeit game checks during a suspension. 


It's Not Easy

While the Raiders could release McClain and move on, there is a bigger issue of what to do at the middle linebacker position. It was Travis Goethel, Aaron Curry and Nathan Stupar shared the duties in McClain's absence at organized team activities.

Curry was tabbed as the starting weak-side linebacker, and shifting him to the middle means a total reshuffling of the entire group. It could be Travis Goethel's chance to grab the starting position or Miles Burris could find a home in the middle.

McKenzie also needs to think about how releasing McClain would impact the team's plans to use the 3-4 defense. The Raiders weren't very deep at the linebacker position coming into the season, and releasing one creates an immediate need to add a free-agent. 

One who could come in and make an immediate impact is E.J. Henderson, but at this stage he might still be too rich for the cap-strapped Raiders. 

If Goodell waits to rule on the punishment for McClain, the trial could hang like a black cloud over the team all season.

McClain has also been hindered by injuries, and releasing him prior to his 23rd birthday might be premature for such a talented player. 


The New Era

It's hard to fathom the new regime preaching personal accountability with Rolando McClain as the quarterback of Dennis Allen's defense. Perception is reality, and the new leadership can't let one bad egg spoil the entire carton.

McKenzie should push Goodell for a quick decision so the Raiders can prepare for the time McClain will miss. 

Despite the challenge it will present for the Raiders, McKenzie should release McClain. He will get another chance, but McKenzie would be wise to make sure that comes in a different uniform.