By Jeff Zrebiec
5:36 PM EDT, March 23, 2012
Having already lost two defensive starters and two key reserves to free agency, the Ravens moved today to keep an unheralded yet steady member of their defense, agreeing to terms with inside linebacker Jameel McClain.
“It’s great," McClain said at a news conference. "It’s an honor to be back and be part of this organization, to be able to represent these fans and this city. It is great. It’s a good time for me and my family right now.”
Terms were not disclosed, but a source confirmed that it is a three-year deal. McClain, 27, becomes the third unrestricted free agent to sign with the Ravens today, following the lead of cornerback and special teams ace Corey Graham and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The Ravens later announced that they had signed safety Sean Considine.
"We are pleased this worked out for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a news release. "It has been our hope to bring [McClain] back, even when he became a free agent. Personally, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Jameel as a player, but also his life story. We are proud of him, and we know our fans are, too."
McClain originally signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent and emerged as a regular, starting 31 of the Ravens’ 32 regular-season games the past two seasons.
This past year, McClain was second on the NFL’s third-ranked defense with 81 tackles. He also finished the regular season with one sack, one interception, a career-high five passes defended and two fumble recoveries, including one in which he returned for a touchdown in the Ravens’ victory over the New York Jets on Oct. 2.
He was at his best this past season during middle linebacker Ray Lewis’ four-game absence with a toe injury. In those four games, McClain made 32 tackles while making all the defensive calls in victories against the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts.
The Ravens have been looking to linebacking depth and will face life after Lewis at some point, so re-signing McClain makes a lot of sense.
"Jameel understands what it is to be a Raven, to play like one, and he is an integral part of our team, especially our defense," Harbaugh said. "With Jameel and Brendon back, our linebackers group is very solid right now."
There was some speculation that McClain would wind up with the Colts or New York Jets, coached by two former Ravens defensive coordinators, Chuck Pagano and Rex Ryan respectively. However, the free agent linebacker market moved slowly and McClain’s one visit was with Denver on a day when several of the Broncos’ top executives were in Durham, N.C. to watch quarterback Peyton Manning work out.
McClain said the long free agency process was frustrating.
“To be a person that believes in taking things into control – I work hard, I put my heart into everything that I do because that’s what I can control – but free agency is something you can’t control and it shakes up the way that it shakes up at the end of the day," he said. "I was definitely frustrated, but it was what it was.”
So what's he going to do to celebrate his new contract?
“The first thing I do financially, I am going to put this money in a sneaker box. No, no, no. I am going to put it in the bank, invest it," McClain said. "I am trying to secure my future, trying to take care of my family and generations behind me. This is just a small stepping stone. It’s not where it needs to be, but I will get there. What am I going to do? I am going to spend it right.
"I am going to spend it right. I am not going to make it rain.”
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