The Ravens have hammered out an agreement in principle on a one-year contract with former Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
The modest deal is for the league minimum base salary of $700,000 along with incentive clauses based on playing time and performance that can boost the total value of the contract for the former Alabama star, sources confirm.
When McClain was the eighth overall pick of the draft three years ago out of Alabama, his five-year contract was worth roughly $40 million and included $22.825 million in guaranteed money.
The 2010 Raiders first-round draft pick and Butkus Award winner is scheduled to travel to Baltimore on Thursday night before taking a physical Friday morning and meeting with general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and other staff members at team headquarters. As long as there are no snags, he'll officially sign his contract as soon as Friday and join the Ravens for their offseason conditioning program next week.
This is regarded as a second chance for McClain to prove himself after running into trouble off the field as well as providing inconsistent play on the field during three seasons with the Raiders. The Ravens' commitment to McClain will hinge on his approach to football and how he conducts himself on and off the field, per sources.
McClain, 23, was recently cut by the Raiders.
Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, a former Ravens director of personnel who provides color commentary for Alabama radio broadcasts, told The Baltimore Sun that McClain is worthy of another opportunity as a calculated risk.
"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.
"Ozzie has that connection to Alabama and he has that insight. Sometimes, guys don't pan out at their first stop. So, you catch him on the rebound. When an Alabama player ends up in front of Ozzie Newsome, they know who he is and what he represents. Rest assured, the law is laid down about expectations."
McClain was an All-American for the Crimson Tide, where Newsome launched his Hall of Fame career playing for the late Bear Bryant.
However, legal problems and inconsistent play have plagued McClain in the NFL. McClain has 246 tackles, 6.5 sacks and one interception in three NFL seasons.
He cleared waivers Monday after being released last Friday.
McClain was due a $4.05 million salary in 2013 and $5.805 million in 2014, but none of that money is due now that his Raiders rookie contract terminated and no one picked it up.
McClain was suspended for two games last season for conduct detrimental to the team when he clashed with coach Dennis Allen when he was demoted from the starting lineup. He has struggled in pass coverage when isolated in space on his own, but is regarded as sound for zone schemes.
A misdemeanor assault case against McClain in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., was dismissed last year when the alleged victim declined to go forward with the case after reaching a financial settlement with his former high school classmate.
McClain had been facing third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, illegal discharge of a firearm and menacing charges. McClain allegedly threatened to kill the man and fired a gun next to his head during a fight two years ago.
McClain was initially convicted of four misdemeanors, but appealed the verdict and the case is now resolved.
The Ravens have a need at inside linebacker due to Ray Lewis' retirement, Dannell Ellerbe signing a $35 million contract to join the Miami Dolphins and Jameel McClain still not fully cleared to play following a spinal cord contusion.
When McClain is on his game, he's a big run-stopper at 6-foot-4, 259 pounds..
"It's a move that can't go wrong and I'm looking forward to playing in Baltimore as the Ravens run the same or very similar defense as I was a part of at Alabama," McClain told the Madison Weekly News in Alabama, where he lives with his wife and children. "Ray Lewis retired and I look to fill his slot. No one can fill his shoes, but I can fill his slot. This is a perfect fit."
The Ravens also signed former Raiders first-round safety Michael Huff earlier this year to a three-year, $6 million contract this offseason.
"Love it!" Huff wrote on Twitter when news broke that McClain would be joining the Ravens.
By adding McClain, the Ravens aren't necessarily pressed into a need to draft an inside linebacker in the first round with the 32nd overall pick, which had been previously rumored by draft analysts.
"You’re getting an inside ‘backer who’s relatively young with ability," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during a conference call. "There’s been several Alabama players to come through this program over the years from Le’Ron McClain to Jarret Johnson to Terrence Cody, Courtney Upshaw last year. So, they’ve obviously done well with Alabama players, obviously with Ozzie Newsome’s connection there.
"[Inside linebacker] is a big hole. Obviously it’s a key need area for them still at inside linebacker. They need one, maybe two, but it allows them to not have to force something if there’s not a player there. They can pretty much not have to worry about saying, ‘We have to have this need filled via the draft.’"
The San Diego Chargers have made a preliminary inquiry to veteran free agent offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, according to a source.
No signing or visit is imminent and it's unlikely that McKinnie will strike a deal with any team until after the NFL draft.
The Ravens have remained in touch with McKinnie, so the door isn't closed on a potential return for the former Pro Bowl blocker.