Perhaps the Ravens should thank troubled linebacker Rolando McClain for not waiting until after this weekend’s draft to show his true colors yet again.
After meeting with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh less than two weeks ago to learn what was expected of him in receiving an opportunity to join one of the model organizations in the NFL, McClain found trouble once again by being arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in his hometown of Decatur, Ala. on Sunday night. The former Raiders linebacker — released earlier this month with his old team carrying $11 million in dead money this season just to be rid of him — showed how much he thought of the second chance awarded by the defending Super Bowl champions.
Even if the move appeared to go against everything the Ravens try to do in adding high-character players, the financial risk was minimal and Newsome made it very clear where McClain stood when asked about the 2010 first-round pick last week. A $700,000 base salary that included $400,000 in incentives based on playing time — none of the money guaranteed — reflects that the Ravens weren’t expecting much.
“Rolando is just getting an opportunity to come and make our 53-man squad,” Newsome said bluntly. “That’s it.”
To this point, all the Ravens have invested in the 23-year-old is time and an opportunity; he’s already proven to be unworthy of either.
But the timing of McClain’s latest run-in with the law reaffirms the Ravens’ need to address their inside linebacker position. By no means was it a position Newsome and the front office planned to neglect after McClain’s addition, but his projected status to man one of the Ravens’ starting inside positions in their base 3-4 system would have made it easier to focus on other positions of need such as offensive tackle, wide receiver, and safety.
The temptation would have been there to forgo an inside linebacker if players of similar stature at other need positions remained on their draft board, but not anymore.
“You always look at need. We say best player available, but you have to factor need into the equation,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said last week. “If the best player available is a quarterback in the first round, we’re not going to take him. You have to look at the best player available based on need. Obviously, if you have three players that are next to each other in your sequence and one player is a big need and the other players aren’t needs — even if the other players may be ahead of that one player that is a need — you’re going to flip your list because they’re all close.”
The Ravens shouldn’t waste any more time on McClain after he spit in the face of the gift handed to him by Newsome and Harbaugh. Details of his Sunday arrest remain vague and McClain is certainly entitled to due process as it relates to his legal standing as a citizen, but the fact that he even put himself in such a position again is enough reason to warrant the termination of his contract.
After veterans such as Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed exited amidst speculation that their opinionated locker-room presence was at least partially the reason why they were jettisoned, allowing McClain another chance sends a message to the rest of the locker room that such off-field conduct will be tolerated. The Ravens shouldn’t expect all players to be perfect — the prize of their free-agent class, Elvis Dumervil, doesn’t have a spotless reputation — but a headache like McClain who’s proven to be no better than a solid two-down linebacker to this point in his career simply isn’t worth the hassle and sleepless nights spent wondering what he’s doing.
Supporters of McClain’s signing pointed to the dysfunctional atmosphere cultivated by Oakland over the years, but that doesn’t provide an excuse to be a bad citizen. Newly-signed safety Michael Huff spent the first seven years of his career with the inept Raiders, but you didn’t see him build such a rap sheet or receive a suspension for conduct detrimental to the organization like McClain did last year.
The Ravens spent their offseason adding solid character veterans such as defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears to help complement a locker room that lost a significant amount of leadership following Super Bowl XLVII. A marginal player like McClain only threatens to disrupt a winning culture by sending the wrong message to the rest of the team already assembled in Owings Mills.
He simply isn’t worth the headache, a possibility the Ravens acknowledged with such a small investment in the former Alabama standout and confirmed by his inability to stay out of trouble before even taking part in his first practice with his new team.
Anyone’s deserving of a second chance, but McClain wasted no time in showing he’s not committed to the Baltimore Ravens.
That’s why Newsome will focus this week on finding the inside linebacker who is.
And he can thank McClain for the ungrateful reminder.