Despite NFL free agency not officially starting until next week, at least in terms of signings being able to announced as official, players who are released by their current team get to effectively be “first to market” and are free to sign with another team without restriction.
The Minnesota Vikings have been fairly proactive in their search for linebackers at this early stage, with a reported visit with former Viking Jasper Brinkley earlier this week and previous interest in lining up a visit with D’Qwell Jackson before he signed with the Indianapolis Colts. But they appear to be leaving no stone unturned, and rightfully so, with a report from ESPN’s Adam Caplan on Thursday that they will host Jameel McClain for the free agent linebacker’s next visit. Would he be a good fit for Minnesota?
McClain spent the first six seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, but he was released last week and has already visited the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. He started 55 games during his time with Baltimore, including 10 last season when he returned to action after suffering a spinal cord contusion late in the 2012 regular season.
McClain is an inside linebacker by trade, so Minnesota would likely be focusing on him as a candidate to be their new middle linebacker, but he has some versatility to offer and could be used as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
McClain is a feel-good story after his return from such a severe injury, but he has never been a standout and at age 29 before next season starts his upside can’t be considered great. There is certainly a place for McClain in a Vikings’ linebacking corp that only has one sure-fire starter (Chad Greenway) and needs better depth, but it’s worth wondering if he’ll now seek a contract on par with Jackson’s (four years, $22 million; $11 million guaranteed) and if that’s the case the Vikings should feel free to move on and continue their search for suitable linebackers.