With the NFL offseason now officially underway, it’s never too early to start focusing on the next order of business, which is free agency. The Cowboys have 20 unrestricted free agents who can sign with other teams starting on March 9, unless they strike a new deal with the Cowboys before then.
Over the next two weeks, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will break down each free agent, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of a return in 2017.
Today, we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle Terrell McClain.
What’s The Deal: What’s the old saying? You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? The Cowboys found out as much with the play of Terrell McClain this past season. Remember that just two games into the 2015 campaign, the big defensive tackle hurt his toe, which required surgery, and was lost for the year. Given all the other injuries the Cowboys suffered, McClain was more or less overlooked, but his absence was definitely felt. Case in point, Dallas allowed 120.9 rushing yards per contest in 2015, tied for 22nd in the NFL. In 2016 with him in the lineup for 15 games? Try just 83.5 rushing yards surrendered, the league’s best mark. McClain helped lead that charge by topping the team’s defensive linemen in tackles (41) while also posting career highs in sacks (2.5) and forced fumbles (2). In addition, he added three tackles for loss and eight quarterback pressures, an outstanding overall effort by any standard.
Cowboys Highlight: It can often be hard for a defensive tackle to stand out down there in the muck and mire of the trenches, as he is often asked to just tie up the blockers in order to free up his teammates to make the play. But McClain was able to capture a little of the spotlight himself in the Cowboys’ 28-14 victory over Cincinnati in Week 5 of the 2016 season. He finished third on the team with six tackles, including four solo, and collected 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries. It was, without a doubt, a career day for McClain.
Argument to Keep: Again, the comparison of the Cowboys’ defense with and without him over the past two seasons is a pretty good barometer. He’s got the size and mentality to take the beating inside and is a leader among a close-knit defensive line group.
Argument to Let Go: There’s no denying that he’s got a little wear and tear on him. It’s hard not to when you’re going up against 300-pound behemoths on a regular basis. While he was healthy for the most part in 2016, McClain will be 29 years old when training camp gets underway in July and he has battled injuries in the past. Whether he can continue to play at this same level has to be a concern.
Bryan Broaddus’ Scout’s Take: Coming out of Oxnard I thought the tackle spot was the strength of the unit and a lot of that had to do with Terrell McClain. It was nice to see him have an entire season of health where he wasn’t dealing with some type of injury. Highly competitive player that shows athletic ability and physical toughness. Plays the game with quickness both up the field and laterally. Very good reactionary athlete. When on the move he can be difficult to block. Makes a large number of plays outside the tackle box. Nice one-gap penetrator. Usually the first one off the ball. Good in the hips which helps his change of direction. Will extend into the blocker and shed quickly. Does a nice job of finishing when he gets into position. Was a nice combination with Maliek Collins inside – disruptive pair. One defensive player that I would try re-sign but others around the league are watching the same tape. Will be interesting to see if the front office can get him back. Great scheme fit. Read