The off-field history of Rolando McClain has been littered with distractions and trouble ever since he was selected 8th overall in the 2010 draft by the Oakland Raiders.
An assortment of run-ins with the law has led to two arrests in less than two years. Ranging from third-degree assault charges (which later were dismissed by the Judge) to providing an officer with a false name after being pulled over for a window tint violation in January of this year which was the final nail in the coffin for his career in Oakland.
By all means, he’s no saint.
The Rolando McClain on the field however is a different story. The player who was an unanimous All-American in 2009, and First-Team All-SEC in 2008 and 2009 at the University of Alabama is someone with the potential for a very bright future in the National Football League.
To impose my morality into this piece, I’m always of the belief that someone deserves a 2nd chance. In this case, the Baltimore Ravens have given Rolando McClain that 2nd chance and potentially more.
Its now up to McClain to get his life outside of football back on track with a top-flight organization.
At just 23 years of age, McClain brings size to the linebacker position. Checking in at 6’4″ and 259 pounds, he has the ability to stop the run with his size but the speed to handle passing situations as well. He’s really just scratched the surface with his talent, tallying 246 total tackles, 6 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception and one safety in just three seasons.
Still, he’s dealt with inconsistent play and has clashed with Raiders staff before as he fell out of favor for playing time, getting suspended last season after a dispute with head coach Dennis Allen. Its all about getting him dialed in and focused on his role with a team.
From the business side of things, the Ravens are taking a slight gamble, especially at a position they are very thin at talent wise. Signing McClain to a one-year, $700,000 dollar contract can certainly be categorized as a low-risk, high-reward move, however. According to Ravens Insider, Aaron Wilson, McClain can earn another $400,000 off incentives based on playing time. McClain could have gone elsewhere for a bigger pay day but even he’s smart enough to realize Baltimore is the best fit to try and rehabilitate himself.
Its a calculated risk and a smart approach for this franchise even without former faces as vocal and emotional leaders in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Signing McClain gives the team – on the field that is – a legitimate, young talent at linebacker with a world of potential. In return, McClain is surrounded by an organization that is run first-class with help in place, starting at the top with owner Steve Bisciotti down to the head coach in John Harbaugh.
There are expectations, a high level of responsibility and a no-nonsense attitude to meet that comes with a team that just captured its second World Championship.
A fresh start means accountability for McClain as he tries to turn the corner in his life and for the organization, helpful steps, thought out in advance by the Ravens in this signing.
No doubt Ozzie Newsome has a watchful eye on the situation since McClain has ties to the Crimson Tide. If anyone has thorough information on Alabama players, its Newsome.
There won’t be the Lewis’ or Reed’s around to keep him focused, but other veteran leaders like newly signed Marcus Spears and Chris Canty, and veteran stalwarts in Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs (who is now the longest-tenured Raven on the roster) could all lend a helping hand. A level of comfort in his own setting being around former Alabama players in Courtney Upshaw and Terrance Cody. Reunited with former Raider teammate Michael Huff. He’s even cousins with former Ravens running back/full back Le’Ron McClain, who could also lend input into how structured the Ravens organization is.
Solid men to learn and study from in linebackers coach Ted Monachino and inside linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale as McClain will adjust to a 3-4 defense, something he had great familiarity with while at the University of Alabama.
There are others who too are rooting for McClain that have ties to the organization. Former Ravens director of personnel Phil Savage told The Baltimore Sun that McClain is worth taking a shot on.
“When Rolando puts his mind to it, he can be a productive starter,” Savage said. “He was captain of the Alabama defense and he knows that Nick Saban defense. Most of the issues he’s had are from the emotional side of the things. The Ravens have done a terrific job over the year of managing players. They’re going to give this a shot, and it’s low-risk, high-reward. They may have found a starter on April 10, for crying out loud.
We won’t truly know whether Rolando can stay out of the limelight and focus on playing football. That’s for a future story. But the pieces are in place to try and maximize the most out of him without it costing the Ravens too much. It could all go well and the Ravens get a steal, signing a 23 year old to be a starter at linebacker. Time will tell.
Its all in place for the Ravens to help Rolando. Rolando needs to help himself be better. He’s moved himself and his family out of Decatur, Alabama where trouble seems to find him at every turn.
McClain hopes to turn his life around one day at a time, and the hope is that with a new start in Baltimore, his young career will trend in the right direction as well.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund.