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3 Free Agents That Could Replace Rolando McClain in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys Justin Durant Curtis Lofton DeMeco Ryans

Brian Martin



Cowboys Headlines - 3 Free Agent Options To Replace Rolando McClain For Cowboys 4

The Dallas Cowboys have unfortunately put themselves in a really tough situation on the defensive side of the ball. They have three defensive players on their front seven that will be suspended to start the season, and they will have to find a way to compensate for their absence.

One player in particular may be extremely difficult to replace.

Rolando McClain is a difference maker when he's on the field, but due to recent news we now know that he will miss the first 10 games of the year. McClain could possibly see his time with the Dallas Cowboys coming to an end.

There comes a time when you have to move on from these knucklehead players, despite their talent. The time is now for the Cowboys to send a message to the rest of their team that this kind of conduct is unacceptable.

I personally was hoping that McClain would become a difference maker in 2016, since this would be his first full off-season with the Dallas Cowboys. I even went as far as writing an article about how he could be the key to the defensive success in 2016, but now the Cowboys are left trying to replace him.

They have options on their current roster, but not many players with very much NFL experience. Of course, Sean Lee could move back to MLB, but that's not ideal due to his injury history and the physical nature of the position. Anthony Hitchens might be the favorite at this point, but even he is unproven. That is why I think it might be wise to go the veteran route to help fill the void at the middle linebacker position.

I decided to do a little research to find out if there were any veteran free agent linebackers that could be of interest, and here is what I came up with:

Justin Durant

Cowboys Headlines - 3 Free Agent Options To Replace Rolando McClain For Cowboys

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY

The Dallas Cowboys already have a familiarity with veteran linebacker Justin Durant, so that may make him an intriguing option to replace Rolando McClain. Durant was part of the organization in 2013 and 2014, but spent the 2015 season with the Atlanta Falcons.

As a member of the Falcons last season, Justin Durant accumulated a total of 82 combined tackles, three passes defensed, and one forced fumble. Not eye-popping numbers, but pretty solid nonetheless.

Unfortunately, injuries have plagued him the majority of his NFL career and I'm not sure the Cowboys would want to bring in a player that might not last the entire season. Plus, due to his size (6'1", 230) and his age (30), he may be a better fit as a weak side linebacker instead of an MLB.

If the Cowboys are looking for a veteran to help fill in, they could kick the tires on Justin Durant and see if he could possibly help out.

Curtis Lofton

Cowboys Headlines - 3 Free Agent Options To Replace Rolando McClain For Cowboys 2Curtis Lofton is coming off his worst season in the NFL after spending last year with the Oakland Raiders. He finished the year with just 64 total tackles and one quarterback sack.

Lofton is probably a better fit to play MLB for the Dallas Cowboys than Justin Durant and has been a tackling machine throughout his NFL career.

He is still recovering from off-season knee and ankle surgeries, but the surgeries aren't considered serious. He should be ready to play in 2016.

Curtis Lofton just turned 30 years old and is entering the stage of his career where injuries might become a reoccurring theme. I think he has a lot of good football ahead of him and would be a really interesting option if Dallas decides to bring in a veteran linebacker.

DeMeco Ryans

Cowboys Headlines - 3 Free Agent Options To Replace Rolando McClain For Cowboys 3DeMeco Ryans is not only the most tenured linebacker on this list, but also has the most experience playing in the NFC East division.

Ryans has spent the last four seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but was a recent cap casually, thus making him available as a free agent. Last season, for the Eagles, he had 49 total tackles, five passes defensed, one interception, and one forced fumble.

His experience within the division might be beneficial to the Cowboys defense, but at this point in his career his skill set could be starting to diminish. Players start slowing down with age and it just might be catching up to DeMeco Ryans.

Living in the Houston area, I witnessed firsthand how effective he can be on the field during his time with the Houston Texans, but I can honestly say I kind of lost track of him when he joined the Eagles.

I think it would be worthwhile for the Dallas Cowboys to see what he's got left in the tank and put him through a workout.

Are any of these vet LBs realistic options for the Cowboys?

Of course, all of this is speculation that the organization and coaching staff isn't already comfortable with what they have at the linebacker position. They still have training camp to get through, but I think it's still worth mentioning that there are some veteran options available.

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

  • jimmy d

    Thanks for writing this! Once McClain got suspended, my first thought was enough is enough… Cowboys will now sign someone to help the defense. However…. I saw no articles on the topic until yours. I hope we see a workout or signing soon.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for reading Jimmy. It's always good to get feedback, whether it's positive or negative. I was surprised myself when I looked around the Internet and didn't see anyone suggesting who could possibly replace Rolando McClain. Maybe everyone was still in shock at yet another Cowboys defender getting suspended. It's definitely shaping up to be an interesting off-season for the Cowboys. Training camp will be huge for them this year.

  • Jeff Brisco

    Interesting article. I really liked the thought process. I like Curtis Lofton. Out of all 3 I believe he would be the best fit. I also think they would get total buy in from him. The price would be cheap too. I believe Marinelli would find a way to get the most out of him.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for coming Jeff. I agree with you. Curtis Lofton has been the most productive of the three and I think he has the most left in the tank. Unfortunately, it all depends on how he is recovering from his off-season surgeries. Although they were considered serious, it could be why he is still available.

  • Ray

    Greate article, unfortunately cowboys have young players on this roster and a few choices of old and banged up players on the latter part of their careers. I don't see any good options at this point for my boys. Perhaps Durant would be their best option due to his familiarity with the Cowboys system (2013 and 2014).

    • Brian Martin

      Everything you say is true Ray. Any free-agent at this point that is still available are usually in the later part of their careers, but that doesn't mean they still can be productive. I'm sure the Cowboys are hoping that some of their younger linebackers can step up, but without the majority of them having very much NFL experience it's hard to assess them properly. Durant does have the familiarity with the defensive system, but Rod Marinelli's system is simplistic and should be easy to pick up, especially for a veteran. Personally, I think Curtis Lofton and DeMeco Ryans are both better options to play the middle linebacker position and don't have the injury history like Durant.

  • Derrick

    I wouldn't hesitate to bring back Greg Hardy.

    • Brian Martin

      I don't think that's even being considered by the Cowboys. Hardy burned all his bridges with the organization last year and the fact that no other team in the NFL will touch him should tell you something about his status in the league. There must be more going on with the whole Greg Hardy situation than we as fans know. He has the talent, but it's his character and past troubles that are keeping him from getting a job in the NFL. I don't see any scenario where Hardy will ever be back with the Cowboys.

  • Joshua

    What about a trade option? We have plenty of RB's now, weird to say that considering it wasnt too long ago we all were pulling our hair out over the lack of depth at that position. Wouldnt we (possibly) be able to find better value if a team has need at RB due to injury during camp?

    • Brian Martin

      A trade is always a possibility, but you have to have a willing trade partner and other NFL teams know that the Cowboys may be desperate to trade for a LB and want to much in compensation. Yes, the running back depth could allow the Cowboys to trade one of them, but don't forget about offensive guard Ronald Leary as a tradable commodity as well. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. It's always good to hear everyone's different thoughts and opinions.

  • Joshua

    P.s. I also applaud the article for its uniqueness!

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks. Positive feedback is always welcome.

  • Brandon

    I really liked this article also I think they should cut ties with McClain and sign Curtis Lofton or Demico Ryans to a cheap 1 year deal before training camp and see what they have left. If younger players currently on the roster outplay them during camp and preseason then they can cut ties with them without losing anything but it's better to try and maximize there options.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for taking the time and commenting Brandon. I love to hear any kind of feedback and everyone else's opinions. I really like the idea of signing Curtis Lofton, but I just don't know where he's at in his recovery after off-season surgery to his knee and ankle. The surgeries weren't considered serious, but I just don't know if he would be ready once training camp kicks off July 28. I'm sure the Cowboys are examining all their options. They can't afford not to.

  • Julius Bridges Jr

    Bring in Ryans , trade Leary .. and , McFadden , along with a second round pick in next year's draft , for the rights to Joey Bosa ! The Cowboys are on the edge of something special , within the next few seasons ( .. if not , this season ) . Time is too precious for The Dope Head Daycare Program to keep opening it's doors to the adolescents , whom have yet to fully mature towards the responsibility level required to become a TRUE professional athlete .. What good is a player if he's unable to suit up ! TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY …

    • Brian Martin

      I don't see any scenario where the Cowboys can trade for Joey Bosa. The Cowboys knew about Lawrence and Gregory's suspension heading into the draft and still didn't select him. That should tell you something right there. I think they'll ride out the first month with what they have and hope that Lawrence and Gregory's return can boost the pass rush. It will be interesting to see what they do at middle linebacker though. There are some current players on the roster that could step up and hopefully fill that role. How the organization feels about their current group will tell us all we need to know about bringing in a veteran LB.

  • DaveH

    More than likely, they wait to see who is available after training camp rosters get trimmed down. Go with one of there own for now.

    • Brian Martin

      I don't see them going that route because I don't see any linebackers that will be available that is better than what they already have. If the Cowboys don't bring in a veteran LB that will tell us all we need to know about how they feel about their current group of linebackers.

  • Allen Rogers

    You hit the nail right on the head with this article Brian Martin. Since R.McClain cant stop puffing the weed, we should make it so, he has plenty of time to get high!!!! D.Ryans would be a perfect fit at linebacker for us, I hope JJ gives him a workout.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for commenting Allen. It's a good boost to the ego to receive positive feedback. I actually like Curtis Lofton just a little bit better than D. Ryans, but only if he is ready for training camp after his off-season surgeries. Although, I really like that Ryans is familiar with the NFC East division already. Donald Butler is another veteran linebacker that is available. He could be an intriguing option as well.

  • theone

    How come no one is talking about AJ Hawk, i know he has lost a step but i think he is talented enough paired with Hitchens to keep the position steady until next year when Hopefully Smith can get on the field… plus paired with Sean lee i think some nice plays could happen… But honestly.. .to me there isnt a reason why Anthony Hitchens should get the job… maybe even the whole job, he played good when McClain was out last year and i think more time is what he needs… I just wish we could find more blitz packages for Kyle Wilber this year.. if you look at his size and speed I dont understand, i know blitz packages arent Rod marinelli's thing but to me we have the talent at LB to get to the QB more… Kyle Wilber should also get a shot a MLB

    • Brian Martin

      AJ Hawk at this point in his career is probably nothing more than a two down linebacker. Not exactly what I think the Cowboys are looking for if they do decide to go the veteran route. I actually like Anthony Hitchens better and I think that's who the Cowboys will probably end up going with. I don't think Kyle Wilber is an MLB. There is a reason why he is taken off the field on third downs. He is a liability in pass coverage.

  • http://yahoo crh

    Pick all three an go with 6 linebacker for the season be creative if you can afford them it will work

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Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber

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Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign Linebacker Kyle Wilber

A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.


The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber:

Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.

Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.

The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.

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Report: Cowboys Officially Release CB Orlando Scandrick

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Orlando Scandrick

After requesting his release from the team just a few days ago, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick has gotten his wish. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Scandrick has officially been cut by the Dallas Cowboys.

Josina Anderson on Twitter

I'm told the #Cowboys have informed CB Orlando Scandrick he will be released, per source.

This move will reportedly save the Cowboys roughly $1.4M against the salary cap, as we hope they finally look to make some moves during the Free Agency period.

Scandrick's release comes after an offseason in which the Cowboys totally overhauled the back end of their defense, specifically their cornerbacks. With the emergence of young, promising players such as Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and the health issues of the aging Scandrick, the move makes a lot of sense.

In fact, after the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round of last year's draft it was rumored the Cowboys were looking to move Scandrick for extra draft picks. Instead, one year later, they have cut him to save some cap room.

Orlando Scandrick should have a market to find a new team elsewhere, but his time in Dallas has now come to a close.

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Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line

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Dallas Cowboys Have Big Hole on Offensive Line
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

There are a lot of positions being talked about right now for the Dallas Cowboys. Upgrades are needed at several spots, but one critical position needs even more than that. Left guard is completely unmanned, and that could be a big problem for the 2018 offensive line if it's not addressed soon.

Last year's starter, Jonathan Cooper, is currently an unrestricted free agent. So are backups Joe Looney and Byron Bell.

Right now, Chaz Green is the only other non-starter under contract who has any NFL experience at left guard. Nobody wants to see him on the field next year.

Dez Bryant may be a big topic but at least he's under contract. The same goes for safety, where we at least have options to turn to if free agency or the draft don't yield anything.

Left guard, though? The cupboard is bare.

La'el Collins' Position Flex Could Come in Handy for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins

One option could be to move La'el Collins back to guard, where many feel he has the most upside, and then find a new right tackle. But that would be changing two positions to fill one hole, and Collins was playing well at tackle by the end of the year.

And obviously, we don't want to see Chaz Green playing that spot either. Or any spot. Ever.

No, at this point it makes sense for Dallas to leave Collins where he is and either sign or draft a starting LG. The question is how much do they want to invest?

The Cowboys are already shelling out big bucks to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. Even Collins counts about $7 million against the cap. They have three first-round picks already tied up in the offensive line.

Some thought veteran free agent Josh Sitton would be a nice option, but he got picked up by the Dolphins today for about $8-9 million per year. That's more than Dallas can afford given their limited cap space and other needs.

No, the LG in 2018 is going to need to be a salary cap bargain. That means either re-signing Jonathan Cooper or Joe Looney on the cheap, or perhaps paying a rookie salary to a high draft pick.

Last year's 19th overall pick, O.J. Howard, counted just $2 million against the Bucs' salary cap in 2017.

There are some older veterans who could be cheap band-aid options, such as Matt Slauson or Evan Smith. But you don't get very far down some lists of available guards before you see Jonathan Cooper's name, and continuity is always a plus.

The point here is don't expect any big move, even with the enormity of the need. Dallas will likely reach an agreement with Cooper after he's tested the free agent waters a bit, assuming nobody else scoops him up.

If not, the need at left guard will become increasingly dire the further we get into the offseason.

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