Ozzie Newsome seems to have done it again.
On face value, trading a former top-10 pick and a seventh round pick for a sixth rounder isn’t anything to get excited about. The only thing is, most former top-10 picks haven’t sat out one and a half seasons.
The Ravens signed McClain before last season in hopes of turning his once immense talent into some tangible production. What proceeded was a soul-searching mission for Rolando McClain (and more power to him for that), and he never put on the Ravens uniform. Thankfully for the Ravens, they signed him to an incentive-based contract that included no guaranteed money, and it was as if McClain had never even been in the conversation. Except, the Ravens retained his rights.
This proved significant early this year when McClain — ostensibly at peace with himself — declared his intentions to return to football. However, when he hit the Ravens practice field — after failing the team mandated physical, mind you — he was sluggish and only lasted one day. After that first practice, McClain went as far as saying he was retiring for good.
We now see that wasn’t the truth.
McClain was reinstated and consequently traded to the Dallas Cowboys, along with a seventh round pick in next year’s draft, in exchange for the Cowboys’ sixth rounder. The Cowboys defense is in dire need of help after losing inside linebacker Sean Lee to another season-ending injury. It seems Jerry Jones once again thinks he can do no wrong and is swinging for the fences on McClain — a player who has proven only one thing thus far in his NFL career: he can’t be relied upon.
McClain, an Alabama product, couldn’t stick in a Ravens organization that’s proven to be extremely welcoming to Crimson Tide products. The Baltimore Ravens by most accounts are one of the most well-run franchises in the entire league, with as good an infrastructure and as little clutter as any. There is a defined sense of “we” that permeates the walls of Owings Mills and M&T Bank Stadium, and if a player has difficulty remaining focused within those confines, maybe only so much can be done.
That is before taking into account that McClain will be joining the traveling circus that is the Dallas Cowboys. While his agent spins tales of reform and says that “playing for the Cowboys is sort of like playing for the Yankees in baseball. An iconic franchise.” (Yeah, no thanks)
Let’s see how rosy the situation looks when there is a Brandon Weeden-Tony Romo quarterback controversy and the organization realizes how much of a mistake letting Demarcus Ware walk was. Call me a skeptic, but I have a hard time buying anything McClain or his agent says about the Cowboys situation being more favorable or offering better chances of success than one in Baltimore.
As is, Ozzie turned into Houdini. Want to see me turn this seventh round pick into a higher-sixth round pick?
The Cowboys should finish with a worse record than the Ravens, and since the Ravens had two seventh round picks and no picks in the fifth and sixth rounds, they now evened out their draft board. Taking into account the compensatory selections that Newsome inevitably snags, there will be a good number draft picks in next year’s draft.
Meanwhile, the real reason they were able to execute that trade was for a player they never paid a dime and never suited up.
Maybe Rolando will finally get his act together and be the missing piece to the Cowboys seemingly endless hunt to escape a first round exit. Based on the past few seasons, I wouldn’t bet a sixth round pick on it.
UPDATE: Apparently, Jerry Jones might not have made out as bad as originally thought. There are some “ifs” attached to the deal for McClain, and the Ravens only receive a sixth round pick if McClain plays in over half of the Cowboys snaps. If McClain makes the active 46-man roster at least three times, then the Ravens would exchange their seventh round selection for the Cowboys’ seventh rounder.
Something comical is that this whole deal was made under the presumption that the Ravens would finish with a later draft pick than the Cowboys. In the apparently unforeseen event where the Cowboys finish higher than the Ravens, the two teams wouldn’t exchange picks. So even if Jerry Jones didn’t get fleeced, he couldn’t pull it off without slighting his team a little.