Phil Savage on Rolando McClain: 'It's definitely worth a try, low-risk, high-reward'

The Ravens are in talks with former Oakland Raiders starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain, gauging the viability of potentially adding a young player who's found trouble off the field and inconsistent success on the field.

If the Ravens do pull the trigger and execute a deal for the former Butkus Award winner and eighth overall pick of the draft, they're expected to make a relatively inexpensive investment. If it works out and he recaptures his college form, then the Ravens can revisit their level of financial commitment toward McClain.


And the Ravens approach this situation with a lot of inside knowledge about McClain since he's a former Alabama star. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome launched his Hall of Fame career as a tight end playing for the Crimson Tide for the late Bear Bryant. He's as informed on Alabama football players as anyone in the game.

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 worth a second chance.

"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. If it happens, they'll have three players from Alabama in Rolando, Terrence Cody and Courtney Upshaw who fit the 3-4 scheme. It makes a lot of sense, on paper."

Where McClain, 23, has run into problems has been off the field, but his misdemeanor case in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., has been resolved since the alleged victim declined to go forward in the case after reaching a financial agreement with the former Alabama standout.

McClain was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm, but the conviction wasn't upheld after he appealed.

On the field, McClain has 246 career tackles, 6 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception and one safety. He was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team when he clashed with Raiders coach Dennis Allen after being demoted from the starting lineup.

When McClain is on his game, though, he's a big run-stopper at 6-foot-4, 259 pounds.

Everything will hinge on how McClain conducts himself, if the Ravens consummate a deal with him.

"Rolando has a chance to be a three-down player, but he's more effective on run downs," Savage said. "He's definitely capable of zone coverage. He doesn't have that explosive burst that a Ray Lewis or a Jonathan Vilma has, but he runs around good enough. He never had the sudden movement of a Jon Beason or a Luke Kuechly. He's a bigger body type. It's definitely worth a try, so we'll see how it all shakes out. He's got a chance to do something, and it will come down to what he does with it."