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Dallas Cowboys' Window For Releasing Rolando McClain Has Likely Passed

If the Cowboys had wanted to do something about McClain, they would have done it by now.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

On June 30th, news hit the wires that Rolando McClain would be suspended for 10 games for failing another drug test. Within seconds of the news breaking, the first calls came for the Cowboys to release McClain, but in the almost two weeks since, no such move was made by the Cowboys.

Reports out of Dallas suggest the Cowboys knew about the pending suspension "for at least two weeks" prior to the official announcement, which means the Cowboys have been weighing their options for almost four weeks.

Many of the early demands for McClain's release were about sending a message or warning to the remaining Cowboys players, but whatever message or warning those demanding his immediate release envisioned lost more and more of its relevance with each passing day. And with the Cowboys having knowledge of McClain's suspension for four weeks now, the window for releasing McClain has likely passed.

Especially now that the Cowboys have started looking at potential fill-ins for McClain. If the Cowboys were to release McClain now, the only message that would send is that they've found a better or more reliable alternative, not that they're coming down hard on people who violate the NFL's drug policy (which many current and former Cowboys like Michael Irvin, coach Wade Wilson, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and others would dispute anyway.)

One of the things the ongoing discussion about a possible fill-in/replacement for McClain has made glaringly obvious is that beyond some vaguely formulated hope about the young linebackers on the roster, the Cowboys have no way of adequately filling the gap McClain will leave in the middle of the Cowboys defense.

And that may be the key reason why McClain is still on the roster. McClain will be eligible to return to the Cowboys' active roster on Nov. 21 following the team's Week 11 game against the Baltimore Ravens. And unless he fails another drug test (which at this point is a very real possibility), he'll instantly upgrade the Cowboys defense.

In 2014, McClain basically rolled off the couch to join the Cowboys and instantly became their best defender for most of the season. The Cowboys are hoping they can get that version of McClain back for the last six games of the regular season, and perhaps three more games after that.

But there's also the cautionary tale of the 2015 version of McClain. After sitting out on-field activities in the offseason, sitting out most of training camp, and serving a four-game suspension to start the season, it took McClain a few weeks on the field to find back to the form that had made him such a standout player in 2014. And with a 10-game forced absence from any type of practice with the Cowboys to start the season, that re-acclimatization to the NFL game might take even longer this year. Yet the Cowboys appear to be willing to take that chance.

The Cowboys may still release McClain for any number of reasons, but if they do, it won't be because of the failed drug test that led to his 10-game suspension.