Cowboys Cut Controversial Defender After Reinstatement

Rolando McClain

Getty Rolando McClain

If Rolando McClain revives his once-hyped NFL career, it won’t happen in the Lone Star State.

The Dallas Morning News reports the Cowboys on Monday will release former starting linebacker Rolando McClain, who was conditionally reinstated by the league after flaming out in 2016 due to repeated substance abuse issues.

The team announced the move Monday afternoon.

Dallas technically owned McClain’s rights upon his reinstatement, which becomes official Tuesday and likely is contingent on McClain keeping his nose clean — figuratively and literally — from here on. The 30-year-old will immediately revert to unrestricted free agency, able to sign with any team.

A 2010 first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders, McClain was acquired by the Cowboys in 2014 following the season-ending injury to inside linebacker Sean Lee. He appeared in 13 games that year, starting 12, and made 81 tackles, three pass deflections, two interceptions, one sack and a forced fumble.

McClain re-upped with the Cowboys on a one-year deal in 2015 and, after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, started 11 games at ILB, notching 80 tackles, three pass breakups, two sacks, an interception and defensive touchdown.

He again was re-signed to a one-year pact in 2016 but never saw the field. McClain was banned 10 games for another policy violation — his second — and failed a drug test midway through the campaign, which indefinitely increased his ban. It was reported soon after that he’d developed an addiction to codeine.

On Friday, Pro Football Talk first reported McClain’s impending re-entry into the pros. Minutes later, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed the club was looking into the matter.

“I had no idea that was a work in progress, but we’ll certainly look at that as we would anything,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “We’ll do our due diligence and make a decision.”

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A Numbers Game

While the Cowboys took into account McClain’s baggage, counterbalancing his evident talent, there was simply no room for him on the 53-man roster, which was finalized Saturday.

The club is set at ILB with Lee and Leighton Vander Esch and just re-signed outside linebacker Jaylon Smith to a massive extension. They also boast stud defensive end and resident sack-master DeMarcus Lawrence, who, too, landed a lucrative contract this offseason.

“I’d say top to bottom, it’s as much talent as I’ve been around,” Lee recently noted, per the Dallas Morning News.

The Cowboys weren’t at all taking McClain into consideration when they were forming the regular season squad, according to beat writer Clarence Hill.

Lee Practices

The oft-injured veteran ‘backer was among a handful of previously-sidelined Cowboys stars who participated in Monday’s practice, the first ahead of the 2019 season-opener against New York. Lee, hampered by a knee injury this summer, was spotted in a leg sleeve but otherwise appeared no worse for wear.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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