Dallas Cowboys Roster Moves: DT Terrell McClain Officially Signed

Ezra Shaw

Defensive tackle Terrell McClain rings in this year's crop of Dallas Cowboys free agents.

The Cowboys wasted very little time in free agency, as news emerged today that they officially signed two defensive linemen. One of those linemen is 25-year-old Terrell McClain, a three-year NFL veteran who was drafted by the Panthers in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft out of South Florida.

McClain started twelve games at defensive tackle for the Panthers in 2011, recording 20 tackles (14 solo), one sack and a fumble recovery before suffering a season-ending knee injury and eventually being released during final roster cuts at the start of the 2012 season. He was picked up briefly by the Patriots but was waived after a week, only to be picked up by the Texans, where he played for the last two years.

He played in only four games for Houston in 2012 and was inactive for five games during the regular season as well as both postseason games. Yes folks, the Texans played postseason football just a season ago. In 2013, he played in every single game for Houston, spelling starting nose tackle Earl Mitchell for 182 snaps.

McClain was a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but the Texans opted not to tender him. His 182 snaps earned him a -0.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last year, and his grades suggest he might be directionally better against the run than as a pass rusher.

But even though he does not have an overwhelming resume, in Dallas, the 6-2, 293-pound McClain likely will be in the mix at least for a rotational role on the inside of the defensive line. Nick Hayden graded out as the second worst defensive tackle in the league with a cumulative grade of -27.4, so this under-the-radar move could already be an upgrade over the situation in 2013.

Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli is familiar with McClain, as the then-Bears defensive coordinator worked out McClain in the lead-up to the 2011 draft (see video here). McClain entered the 2011 draft with a lot of strength - he squatted 600 lbs and bench-pressed 225 lbs 29 times at the Combine - and NFL.com gave him a fairly high pre-draft grade of 6.99. Comparisons are being drawn to George Selvie, as both are from Pensacola, both went to South Florida and both had rather disappointing early NFL careers. And there's also the hope that Marinelli can do with McClain what he did with Selvie. At the very least, the potential is there, as Bryan Broaddus writes:

In case you missed, Battle Red Blog earlier gave us a quick report on McClain:

He was a backup nose tackle, never really got on the field. Played well in pre-season snaps but it's tough to say how he'll do in Dallas. I would bet it's a depth signing. He's not as quick twitch as a prototypical 3-tech, and not as stout against the run as a prototypical nose tackle, but he had a nice blend of both that made him a decent nose in Wade's system. You know how he always liked the under sized guys there. If I had to bet that put him as a cocked nose in your system since he isn't the all-world three technique they want there. So I guess what I'm really saying is that no, this won't stop Jerry Jones from taking Aaron Donald at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Cowboys are bringing McClain in to provide a few quality snaps per game in the defensive line rotation. Nothing more, nothing less.

In the meantime, the Cowboys remain on the lookout for their starting three-technique. The interest in Henry Melton has already been thoroughly documented. And more recent interest in Seattle DT Tony McDaniel came to an unceremonious end when the Seahawks re-signed McDaniel earlier this evening. We'll see how the search for a three-technique develops.

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