Baltimore Ravens

Wait continues for Ravens' McClain, other top free-agent linebackers

A week into free agency, the movement among free-agent linebackers has been limited, especially when it comes to the inside linebackers. There have been some signings at the position -- such as Joe Mays re-signing in Denver and Dan Connor joining Dallas -- but the biggest names remain unsigned.

That includes Stephen Tulloch (formerly of the Detroit Lions), Curtis Lofton (Atlanta Falcons), London Fletcher (Washington Redskins), David Hawthorne (Seattle Seahawks) and, yes, Jameel McClain.

McClain, whom the Ravens signed as a rookie free agent out of Syracuse in 2008, started 31 games for the Ravens the past two seasons. The majority of those starts were next to Ray Lewis, but his most impressive stretch of football might have been when he played well -- as did the Ravens defense as a whole -- when Lewis was sidelined for four games late last season with a toe injury.

The Ravens went 4-0 with Lewis out of the lineup from Week 11 to Week 14 and the defense allowed 12.5 points per game. I'm not pointing this out to spite Lewis, but to praise McClain for how the defense held together with the calls being radioed into McClain's helmet with Lewis on the sidelines.

McClain, 26, seemed poised to cash in on the open market. He visited the Denver Broncos last week on the day that half the organization traveled to North Carolina to watch Peyton Manning throw, but McClain left without signing a deal. The lack of movement among the top inside linebackers suggests that the money might not be much greener on the other side for McClain as was first expected.

The Ravens would like McClain to return, but they also said the same thing about Ben Grubbs, Cory Redding and Jarret Johnson, who all signed elsewhere. As they did with those other guys, they have set a price they are willing to pay to retain McClain and have probably left little wiggle room.

A sector of the fan base will be steaming if the Ravens lose another starter this offseason -- and my colleague Mike Preston thinks McClain is the most irreplaceable -- but it's hard to argue with how the Ravens do their business. Unless, that is, you're sick of watching them play in the postseason every January.