Rolando McClain was supposed to be different.
He was supposed to break the chain of poor first-round drafting by the Oakland Raiders. Oakland took McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft. It was well received because McClain was expected to be a sure thing. He was a star on a defense of stars for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.
Many teams wanted him. McClain earned immediate kudos for asking for his playbook as soon as he was drafted. He was going to be the anti-JaMarcus Russell.
It went downhill from there.
McClain was not a good NFL player and it seems like his time is up in Oakland before his third NFL season is over. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting McClain will be cut Thursday.
The situation became murky Wednesday when McClain missed practice and the team said it was because of a team-related issue. McClain then took to social media, saying he was no longer a Raider.
McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.
The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.
McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.
Changes like this show that the Raiders are rebuilding and patience is needed with the new regime. McKenzie is trying to reconstruct a team with a bad salary cap situation and small draft classes. Getting rid of players who didn’t work out like McClain is also part of the process. Perhaps more cuts are on the way.
McClain may be able to salvage his career elsewhere in the right situation. I’m sure some teams will be interested in him. Oakland will hope he is claimed so the rest of his contract is taken on. But that may not be easy. I could see McClain passing through waivers.
Like every NFL team, I think the three other AFC West teams could look at McClain because he can fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. But each team will have to decide if trying to salvage McClain is worth its time.
As for Oakland, newly signed veteran Omar Gaither will likely play at middle linebacker for the time being.
Oakland will look for a middle linebacker in the offseason. One target may be Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o if he is available when Oakland picks in the NFL draft. He is expected to be a top-five pick. Oakland is currently on pace to pick fourth. Te’o is considered a can’t miss prospect.