While McClain has shown flashes of being the star he was in college, he has not validated being a top 10 draft pick. His best year was 2011 when he made 99 tackles and five sacks.
With a new regime in Oakland, McClain has seen his playing time diminished because he was too slow to be a sideline-to-sideline linebacker and he was coming off the field in the nickel defense.
Not only was McClain demoted in terms of playing time, but he also lost the "green sticker" helmet which is used to communicate with the sideline in the huddle. That sticker is referred to as being the quarterback of the defense; a role the middle linebacker should have.
A look now at the pros and cons of cutting McClain.
McClain was taken in the top 10, and while he was not the worse top 10 pick the Raiders have had, he has never done enough to validate the selection. I wouldn't call him a bust, but he wasn't far from becoming one.
Cutting McClain will help Reggie McKenzie get the Raiders salary cap situation under control. With such little wiggle room to work with under the cap, the Raiders weren't able to sign any high profile free agents who could have helped keep this team in the playoff hunt.
Gone with McClain are his off-field issues back home in Alabama. He has gotten into legal trouble twice since being drafted in 2010. Most recently he posted on his Facebook that he was done in Oakland only to later delete the post. The Raiders won't miss the drama that comes with McClain.
Without McClain, the Raiders now have another hole to fill in the offseason. While they are on pace to get a top five or so draft pick, there is no guarantee that highly coveted linebacker Manti Te'o will be available when Oakland picks. Add middle linebacker to the Raiders' other depth issues with running back, cornerback and a dominant pass rusher.
It also may be too early to give up on McClain. This was just his third NFL season. Not to mention that he has gone through a new defense every year in his Raider career from John Marshall to Chuck Bresnahan to Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver. How can we expect consistency from McClain when we don't even get consistency on the sideline?
I would hate to see McClain get picked up by another team only for him to turn out to be the star he was in college. Reggie McKenzie let go of Stanford Routt who went on to the Chiefs only to be cut by them in his first season with the team. Lets hope McKenzie got it right again by cutting McClain.