The 26-year-old linebacker has never played a full 16-game season in his four years in the league, starting 11 of the 12 games he played in during the 2015 season. It was the first time he did not record a sack, but he did have a career-high 81 tackles.
McClellin's first contract paid him an average of $768,000 per year, but he did receive a $4.5 million signing bonus. After the season ended, the linebacker made it clear he was going to treat the free-agent period strictly as a business, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "I’d love to be back if they want me," he said. "If not, I’ll move on."
He obviously felt it was time for a fresh start outside of Chicago.
His first two years McClellin played defensive end then moved to linebacker. Last year was his first at inside linebacker. At this point, he wants to remain there, per Finley.
"It’s been a tough four years moving around positions. It’d be nice to stay at one. I don’t want to move positions again,” he said. “I feel like that’s the right fit. Hopefully I can stay around here and do that."
Instead, Chicago couldn't make that promise, and he decided to sign with the Patriots.
Now McClellin will join a Patriots defense that was already one of the league's most stout against the run last season. Although New England's secondary was hardly the most consistent, head coach Bill Belichick's defense allowed a ninth-ranked 98.8 rushing yards per game last season.
Joining a team that has little in the way of depth at inside linebacker as currently constructed, McClellin should have chances to make his presence felt if he can prove that he's fully adjusted to life at the second level.
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