Rolando McClain: Likely Landing Spots for Recently Released Linebacker

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Rolando McClain: Likely Landing Spots for Recently Released Linebacker
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rolando McClain era is over in Oakland, as he's yet another first-round pick that didn't pan out under the Al Davis umbrella of NFL draft picks.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Friday that McClain was going to be waived by the Raiders, ending a three-year marriage between the team and the standout linebacker from Alabama:

McClain, a three-year on-and-off starter in Oakland, is coming off a 2012 season in which he started nine games, totaled 60 tackles and forced a fumble for first-year head coach Dennis Allen.

Although McClain has 245 career tackles and has been a steady presence in the middle of the Oakland defense, it's clear he was unhappy with his role on the team.

He got into an argument with Allen and asked to be traded in November (as noted by Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports) and arrested in January of this year after failing to cooperate with police (via USA Today).

It's clear the former first-round pick has some issues to solve before he's ready to lead a defense.

One of those issues appears to be his proximity to his home state (Alabama). As noted by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, McClain expressed discomfort in traveling to Oakland to play football when drafted, but the team made him its first-round pick anyway:

Expect regional location to be a big factor in McClain's decision (assuming he clears waivers), as will playing in the 3-4 defense. McClain expressed to many that he was more comfortable as a 3-4 prospect than he was a 4-3, and that could also be a factor in his upcoming choice.

Although it's highly unlikely that any team claims McClain on waivers, there will certainly be a market for his services. It might be a little early in the process, but here's a look at a few teams that would benefit from a young middle linebacker with room to grow.

 

Baltimore Ravens

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The most obvious choice for a team that needs linebacker help is the heavily depleted Baltimore Ravens.

Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has chosen retirement over defending his team's Super Bowl crown, leaving the biggest void in the middle of Baltimore's defense since Lewis was drafted by management in the 1996 NFL draft.

Everything matches up for a good marriage between Baltimore and McClain. Rolando's cousin Le'Ron McClain was a member of the Ravens during his career, which is maybe a reason to think about joining the defending champs.

And the playing time Rolando would get in Baltimore from the get-go seems to be readily available.

One drawback to this marriage could be the distance from home.

If McClain wasn't happy in California, and there's nothing to say he'd be happier in our nation's capital. However, playing for a franchise like Baltimore is quite different from playing for a franchise like Oakland, and there's only one thing that isn't green that can trump a player's attitude.

It's winning—and Baltimore does plenty of that.

 

Tennessee Titans

Painfully bad against the run last season, McClain would be a good fit with the Titans.

Although young studs Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown have stepped up nicely on the outside, there was a hole in the middle of that defense when Colin McCarthy went down with injury in 2012. After the Titans finished 23rd in run defense in 2012, there's little debate that adding a run-stuffer in the middle could be a play.

As noted by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, McClain was actually better on tape in 2012 than his discomfort would appear, and he could help curb some of the run holes that Tennessee had last season:

Although Tennessee does play a 4-3 defense, having depth with McClain in the middle would be a way for the young linebacker to regain his NFL footing while staying relatively close to Alabama in the process.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons just completed another stellar regular season, and you don't get any closer to Alabama in the NFL than Georgia.

The starters are already in place, like in Tennessee, but there is very little depth behind Akeem Dent at middle linebacker. Like the situation with the Titans, it's all about personal perspective with what McClain wants to do.

If he wants a starting job right away, this probably isn't the best spot for him.

The Falcons also play a 4-3, and that won't help McClain, either.

However, the Falcons are a marquee NFL franchise, have solid coaching on the defensive side of the ball and McClain could very well take over the position on a full-time basis he if improved enough over the next two seasons.

It's hard to pin this down as anything more than a pipe dream right now, but that's how free-agent interest starts sometimes. Atlanta can't be counted out because they need depth and have a regional advantage over almost all of the other 31 teams in play.

 

New Orleans Saints

Cary Emondson-USA TODAY Sports

When it's all said and done, I think New Orleans is the best spot for the troubled middle linebacker.

The Saints are switching to the 3-4 defense, coming off a season in which they were dead last in total defense and allowed over 147 yards per game on the ground.

While the aging Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne figure to anchor the inside backer spots, adding McClain to the mix could help curb New Orleans' run defense struggles on the first two downs of series in 2013.

Which team makes the most sense for McClain?

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It's fairly close to his home state, the Saints are a franchise that has a winning persona after the Super Bowl triumph several years ago and expectations are back up to normal after a down season in the wake of the Bountygate scandal.

If McClain wants to earn playing time early, play in his preferred defense and stay close to his friends and family in the process, the Saints could emerge as the best, most realistic option to accomplish all of his goals for employment in 2013.

 

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